The Ragged Things (1 of 2)

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Continuing the story of Train Morgan (1, 2)

The warden Ii Ma dwells in its redoubt. It wallows in its mud.

One great hand moves, shifting its weight in the murk.

Now there is little mud in the place without recourse; the soil there is for the most part clean and dry. But where Ii Ma lives the blood and ichor that pours from it at all times soaks into the soil. When Ii Ma moves he churns the soil and the blood, creating a thick unwholesome poultice beneath it for its wounds that never heal.

Sometimes when people look at Ii Ma they go mad. Their worldview, even if it is already accustomed to the nature of the place without recourse, cannot handle the existence of such a beast.

First they surrender the boundaries to their world.

They recognize that the pitiful lies by which they seek to make the world a safe and sane and orderly place are lies. They recognize that they have no real control over their fate. They cease to pretend that discipline, diet, sleep schedule, hard work, organization, nest eggs, caution, and good company can save them. They surrender the illusion that their hairstyle, their social standing, their daily drudgery, their favorite shows, their car, their toys, or their lovers have ever been important in the greater context of the world.

Once they have done so they can accept the great bulk of Ii Ma and that it can dispose of them as it wishes.

Yet still it is there, dripping with its great black blood. Still it is their keeper, holding them there by the will of Ii Ma’s masters, and it is no proper thing.

So next they must surrender the notion that the universe is kind. Gnawing prey-fear fills them, and deep anxiety. They recognize that on some deep level the world is sick.

Here is the place where Train Morgan stopped his slide into insanity. He said, “The world is sick; but it is not necessary that the world be sick.”

There are others who do not reach this conclusion.

Looking upon Ii Ma they see a world where disease is inexorable. They recognize that each step further into corruption is irreversible. They see that the world shall never be again so great as once it was.

It shifts its bulk and they vomit, uncontrollably, or cough up blood, and think, “God is a lie.”

And if they should also surrender their purpose in that moment and fall into madness then they wake up in their beds, in the place without recourse, with the smallest portion of that insanity fallen from them. And they look towards the dawn. And they say, as they always say, “How beautiful.”

And they do not visit Ii Ma again.

The ragged things catch you up, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Train Morgan is in the line to make petition to Ii Ma.

This is what Train does on Saturdays. It is the sabbath. He is not religious but there is something in his condition that makes him cling too much to meanings.

So on Saturdays, when it is the sabbath, he does not work.

Instead he comes and he waits to make petition to Ii Ma.

The ground is soft outside Ii Ma’s redoubt. It is not mud but it is soft and it is dark and if you rub your hands in it they will have a certain ichorous sheen.

The crowd is full of the usual sorts.

“It was a mistake, of course,” one woman is saying. “I did nothing. I did not pry into secrets. I did not conduct myself inappropriately. I simply—”

She gestures in frustration.

Mr. Gauston, who like Train is a regular here, answers her with a question. “Do you think that that is virtuous?”

“Pardon?”

“Do you think,” says Mr. Gauston, “that it is more just and more right to be in the place without recourse because one has pried into a secret or conducted oneself to some inappropriate standard?”

The woman’s mouth works. She frowns.

Calmly, softly, she says, “I do not know why you are here. I do not know why anyone should be here. I do not think that anyone should be here. But I know that I am here because I stood at a soft place and I heard the breathing of the ragged things and before I could run away they snatched me up.”

“Oh, I see,” says Mr. Gauston.

“I have to go back,” the woman says. “I have a son.”

But Mr. Gauston has turned away.

So Train pushes his way through the line. He can do this because he is Train Morgan and everyone who does not respect him for his actions fears him for his strength.

He says to her, “My name is Train.”

“Cindy,” the woman says.

“It is not good to protest,” says Train Morgan. “If you protest that you do not belong here, you will anger Ii Ma. Then he will lick you and you will develop terrible sores. They will split, and you will bleed, and you will wake up and you will look towards the dawn and you will say, as you always do, ‘How beautiful.'”

“Don’t say that,” Cindy says.

She curls in on herself.

“It’s creepy that I always say that.”

“It is a sign of the futility of intent,” Train says. “How can one make any progress beyond that point if you cannot even answer the question given you by Ii Ma?”

Cindy chews on her lower lip.

“I have to try,” she says.

And Train smiles.

“I understand.”

“Why are you here?” she says. “If the intent to leave is futile?”

“I want to see my brother,” Train Morgan says.

In the sky above them there is a strange flickering, a distortion in a shape similar to that of an insect spreading its wings. There is a swirling in grey clouds and the crackling of lightning and they can hear the bulk of Ii Ma shifting in its mire as the beast looks up.

Train stares upwards, but nothing further occurs.

“He is somewhere here,” Train Morgan says. “He is somewhere in the place without recourse. But the world is very big.”

The line advances, just a bit. They shuffle forward.

“I cannot find him,” Train Morgan says.

“What did he ask you?” Cindy says.

“Who?”

“Ii Ma?”

And Train remembers walking on the street, and the breathing of the ragged things, sudden in his world, and how he ran.

How he could hear the distant heavy footsteps of the ragged things.

How they had seemed just a bit farther away, how it had seemed he was escaping, until a voice whispered in his ear the question that keeps him bound.

Isn’t the world just a little bit too big for you, Train Morgan?

It is his desire to change the world; to put his will on it; to save, if not the world, then at least a few; to find, if not an answer, than at least his brother Thomas; but: isn’t the world just a little bit too big for you, Train Morgan?

“It doesn’t matter,” Train Morgan says.

Ii Ma keeps the place without recourse.

Train Morgan stands before the warden Ii Ma.

He says, “Please.”

There is silence.

“Please,” says Train Morgan. “I do not ask for freedom. I only want to see my brother.”

And he looks up into its unforgiving eyes.

He 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 there is a swirling in those clouds there are like the spreading of an insect’s wings, and he cries out, in the great loud voice of Train, “Whatever happened to Ink Catherly?”

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Categories: Histories and Stories, Hitherby, Stories, The Witch of Children's Teeth, Under Construction - Canon, Under Construction - The Place without Recourse, Under Construction - The Transition to Imago