The Chimerae (I/I)

Posted on February 24, 2006 by Jenna

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Continuing the story of Train Morgan.

There is always a murder.

There is always someone who cannot wait for Train Morgan to reach the crest of the hill. There is always someone who says, “I will make this answer,” and takes out their knife, and cuts.

This splashes blood through the rickshaw that Train pulls.

It stains it darker.

But Train, he does not mind.

It does not matter if a man gets killed on his rickshaw. It is, in most respects, a kindness.

That person will not sit there, stilled by hope, as Train approaches the top.

That person will not know the crisis of impossible disappointment when that journey fails.

They will simply wake up, in their beds, as those who die here always do, looking at the dawn and saying, “How beautiful.”

Ii Ma, the Warden, keeps the place without recourse.

Train is tall and strong.

He has grown great here, in the place without recourse, as he nurses his impossible question.

He is muscled like a Hercules, like a John Henry, like an Atlas.

His skin is tan and there is sweat on his forehead as he pulls the rickshaw up the hill.

From inside he can hear this:

“I found them nesting under the servers.”

That’s a young Asian man from Silicon Valley. Train does not know his name. He is telling his story, as so many do, in an attempt to understand.

“I cut my way down there because the machines had ceased to function, and for no clear cause, and we were losing tens of thousands of dollars a day. Yet there was nothing wrong.”

There’s a woman there, nodding. Her name is Amelie and Train believes that she is French but he has no real evidence outside of her name. She is nodding to the man and considering the possibility of murdering the man, there within Train’s rickshaw.

This is because there is something about the man’s location that disturbs her.

“I tried a lot of things to fix them,” says the man. “Stupid things. I power cycled. I hit the machines. I spent a while there in the server room just flipping random switches, and I’m not even sure whether the switches were actually there. And when I came outside for air I had this cold sharp realization that I had been mad—that there in that small hot roaring room I had gone mad, and there was blood coming from my nose and ears, and that all the time that I’d been there there had been this chittering, chittering, chittering beneath the floor.”

It is hard—mad wack Sisyphusean hard—for one man to drag a rickshaw with four people in it up the hill that borders the valley without recourse. A rock slips from under Train’s foot and he stumbles and it is almost over right then; but he heaves himself back into balance with great strength and begins again to climb.

“I did not understand my own affliction at that time,” says his passenger.

Amelie nods again; but there is only snoring from Mr. and Mrs. Sandhu, who are old and therefore asleep.

“I dried my nose and ears and felt for blood at the sockets of my eyes and I said, ‘is there some chemical in the air?’

“But there wasn’t.

“I don’t know how I knew that. I just knew that that was a statement without a truth value.

“So I went back in.”

Amelie is staring at the man’s chest. It is a man’s chest. He is wearing a white shirt over it. She cannot escape the sense that there is something visibly moving inside him.

Yet this is not so.

“I would have,” she says, “done something different.”

“You have not worked for a startup,” says the man. “At a startup, it is not entirely reason that one prizes, but dedication. It is men like our host—”

And here Train nods, although they cannot see.

“—and myself who are most valuable.”

Train looks up. He imagines that he can see the top.

“So I went in,” says the man. “And I dug under the floor. And I found them there. They were bulbous, like loaves of rat, and they were clinging at odd angles to the floor and to the air. Their symmetry was threefold, and from time to time they would shift their limbs like a dying insect does. I could not see the basement under the server room, because the dizzying warren of them went down so very far. And when I looked around I saw they were also in the air: up, down, left right, there was nowhere that was not infested by the warren of them. Their legs twitched in my lungs and I coughed up a bit of blood and I could not figure out, no matter how I thought, how I could leave the room.”

“What were they?” Amelie asks.

“I have been told that they were chimerae,” says the man. “Creatures that cause the evaluation of boolean statements as neither true nor false.”

“That does not seem so bad,” says Amelie.

“It is bad for computers,” says the man.


Train pulls the rickshaw higher. Now he can see it: the band of light above him that means that he has almost reached the top.

“For computers,” says the man, “and for men.”

And his nose and his ears are bleeding, and something twitches and kicks at the edge of reality, and driven by a rising panic Amelie takes her knife and cuts his throat in one great slash and her heart beats fast and his head falls back and with a sudden vanishing the man is gone.

Mrs. Sandhu startles awake.

Mrs. Sandhu feels at her face.

Her fingers come back bloody, and she squints at Amelie, and she bobs her head and says something in a language that Amelie does not understand.

“I had to,” Amelie says.

Train grunts.

“I knew what he was going to say.”

She puts her knife away.

“That it wasn’t specifically true or false, you see, that he was still there.”

Mrs. Sandhu sketches a question with one hand.

“I couldn’t let him say that,” Amelie says.

“I couldn’t. Not while I was next to him.”

She shudders.

And Train pulls the rickshaw to the crest of the

There is no discontinuity in the lens.

Train wakes up.

He smiles eastwards towards the dawn.

It is so incredibly beautiful, so mad wack stunning gorgeous. The sun is this brilliant golden glow and there is pink and red like a fire in the sky and the air is clean and bracing and he is fit and refreshed with all the aching in his muscles gone. There’s no dishonesty or pain in it when he sits up in bed and cries, “How beautiful.”

That’s just how it is, every morning, in the place without recourse.