The Isn’t (I/I)

[The Island of the Centipede – Prologue]

When Sid stands before Ii Ma he is dizzyingly small. He is a small and frail man with a feather in his hair.

The betrayal has left him naked, not in the stripping sense but spiritually.

He says, “Ii Ma—”

And there he stops.

Ii Ma’s surface is great plate-like scales. Its shape comes bulbously forwards and its neck is differentiated to only a limited degree. Its maw and its ears are great gaps in the substance of Ii Ma. It has six flippered legs and its face drips black blood. Its eyes are cadaverous. Slime covers it. Muck covers it. At its center is the organ by which it confuses the cartographic process of the place without recourse.

Sid is looking up and he has taken the whole of Ii Ma in for the first time.

“You are beautiful,” says Sid.

Continuing the history of Sid and Max (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

The voice of Ii Ma asks softly, How can you forgive him?

“I don’t know,” Sid says.

It’s the question that dooms him to the place without recourse. Once it’s been asked, there isn’t any path outwards for Sid.

As Sid hears those words, the world recedes from him.

And yet the funny thing is, it’s not like Ii Ma caused this to be true. They were almost companionable, these whispers from the jailer to the kept.

Ii Ma’s just pointed out the box Sid was already in.

“I mean,” Sid asks, “There isn’t anything I can do, is there?”

It is Easter Sunday, 1994, and Sid is wounded to the quick. He is bleeding inside, the clay heart of him leaking red into the flesh he’d made.

He is staring up at the immensity above him like a priest looks to God.

He is pleading: but Ii Ma offers him no answers.

One of Ii Ma’s flippered hands comes forward.

It touches Sid; its roughness scrapes the left side of Sid’s face raw. Sid’s feather flutters to the ground.

“I waited 1300 years for him,” begs Sid, “and just twenty-five years later, he threw me back to Hell.”

And Sid’s eyes are full of tears and he puts his hand on the flipper of Ii Ma and he says, “Help m

This is the history of how Sid left the place without recourse.

Sid wakes up.

The world is vibrant with the beauty of things. The bed. The lamp. Max—

Not even standing there, just existing, somewhere in the universe, Max—

You can’t imagine how beautiful Max is. Not unless you’ve been Sid.

But not just Max. Everything. Everything in the world that’s ever poured itself into Sid’s senses for him to see. It’s all a gift, an incredible shock of goodness, that instead of emptiness there would be things and their lightness and their heaviness and their sweetness and their bitterness and their luminosity and their saturation and their hue. It is an amazing thing that there should be a dawn at all and on that tide of love, Sid cries, “How beautiful.”

And then memory, the thief of joy, casts him down into his grief.

Softly he sobs there.

Softly he bleeds.

But he cannot cry enough. The tears are falling only from the clay body assembled of him and not from Sid. He cannot wring them from his soul. So he gets up and he walks out and he leaves the place without recourse.

Ii Ma cannot stop him, nor does Ii Ma try.

Sid is a siggort, more terrifying than a god. He has in him the capacity to flense the world. Should Ii Ma stand against him then it is almost a given that Ii Ma would fall.

But there is nothing Sid can do to answer the question Ii Ma has posed for him.

There is no reason to stand in his way.

A siggort like Sid, stuck on a question like that—well, he may as well not even exist.