Saturday, March 05, 2011

China Mieville, Kraken

Beautiful, Brilliant

China Mieville, Kraken; An Anatomy, Ballantine Books, New York, 2010.

A predatory meat cylinder, rope limbs unrolling, finding a ship’s rail with ghastly prehensility. (9)

Marge, Leon’s partner, inclined her face for a kiss. The crucifix she always wore glinted.
He had only met her a few times. “She a god-botherer?” Billy had asked Leon after he first met her.
“Hardly. Convent girl. Hence tiny Jesus-shaped guilt trip between her tits.” (15)

“What about your apocalypse, then?” “Well, the universe is a leaf on a time-tree, and come autumn it’s going to shrivel and fall off into hell.” Murmurs of admiration. “Ooh, nice one. (41)

“If you worship that animal.. I’ll put it simply,” Vardy said. “You, your Darwin Centre …” Billy did not understood the scorn there. “You and your colleagues, Billy—you put God on display. Now, who would a devotee be not to liberate it? (44)

Baron beckoned Billy to the door. “They’ll have verses about its mouth,” Vardy said behind them. “The hard maw of a sky-bird in the deep trenches of water.” … “They venerate the thing,” Vardy said, following. “They have to save it from the insult of what I strongly suspect is your cheerful affection. I bet you have a nickname for it, don’t you?” He tilted his head. “I bet that nickname is ‘Archie.’ I see I’m right. Now, you tell me. What person of faith could possibility allow that?” (45)

Into sleep’s benthos and deeper. A slander that the deepest parts are lightless. There are moments of phosphor with animal movement. Somatic glimmers, and in this trench of sleep those lights were tiny dreams.
A long time sleep, and blinks of vision. Awe, not fear.
Billy might surface and for a moment open his flesh eyelids not his dream ones, and two or three times saw people looking down at him. He heard always only the close-up swirl of water, except in deep dream once through muffling miles of sea a woman said, “When’ll he wake?”
He was night-krill was what he was, a single miniscule eye, looking at absence specked with presence. Plankton-Billy saw an instant’s symmetry. A flower of limbflesh outreaching. Slivers of fin on a mantle. Red rubber meat. That much he knew already.
He saw something small or in the distance. Then black after black, then it came back closer. Straight-edged, hard-lined. An anomaly of angles in the curved vorago.
It was the specimen. It was his kraken, his giant squid quite still—still in suspension in its tank, the tank and its motionless dead-thing contents adrift in the deep. Sinking towards where there is no below. The once-squid going home.
One last thing, that might have announced itself as such, the finality was so unequivocal. Something beneath the descending tank, at which form way above though already deep in pitch tiny Billy-ness stared.
Under the tank was something utter and dark and moving, something so slowly rising, and endless. (87)

“That’s what you preserved. Architeuthis is kraken-spawn. Gods are oviparous. Not just our gods, all gods. God-spawn’s everywhere if you know where to look.” (97)

“We were there at the beginning,” Moore said. “And we’re here now. At the end. Baby gods have started manifesting all over. Kubodera and Mori. That was just he first. Pictures, video, making themselves known. Architeuthis, Mesonychoteuthis, unknowns. After all those years of silence. They’re rising.
“On the twenty-eighth of February, 2006, the kraken appeared in London.” He smiled. “In Melbourne they keep theirs in a block of ice. Can you imagine? I can’t help thinking of it as a godsicle. You know they’re planning one for Paris which is going to be, what do they call it, plastinated? Like the strange German man does to people. That’s how they’re going to show god.” Dane shook his head. Moore shook his head. “But, not you. You treated it… right, Billy. You laid it out with a kindness.” Odd stilted formulation. “With respect. You kept it behind glass.” (98)

“Fathers and mothers and uncaring aunts and uncles in freezing darkness we implore you.”
“We implore you.” The congregation mumbled in time, in response to Moore the Teuthex’s phrases.
“We are your cells and synapses, your prey and your parasites.”
“And if you care for us at all we know it not.”
“Not.” (100)

The Teuthex recited the service, his words drifting in and out of English, into Latin or Pig Latin, into what sounded like Greek, into strange slippery syllables that were perhaps dreams of sunken languages or the invented muttering of squidherds, Atlantean, Hyperborean, the pretend tongue of R’lyeh. Billy had expected ecstasy, the febrile devotions of the desperate speaking in tongues or tentacles, but this fervour—and fervour it was, he could see the tears and gripping hands of the devout—was controlled. The flavour of the sect was vicarly, noncharismatic, an Anglo-Catholicism of the mollusc-worship. (100)

“Reach out of enfold us,” Moore said, and the congregation said, “Fold us,” and made motions with their fingers.
“We know,” the Teuthex said. A sermon. “We know this is a strange time. There are those who think it’s the end.” He made another motion of some dismissal. “I’m asking you all to have faith. Don’t be afraid. ‘How could it have gone?’ people have asked me. ‘Why aren’t the gods doing anything?’ Remember two things. The gods don’t owe us anything. That’s not why we worship. We worship because they’re gods. This is their universe, not ours. What they choose they choose and it’s not ours to know why.”
Christ, thought Billy, what a grim theology. It was a wonder they could keep anyone in the room, without the emotional quid pro quo of hope. That’s what Billy thought, but he saw that it was not nihilism in that room. That it was full of hope, whatever the Teuthex said; and he the Teuthex, Billy thought, quietly hopeful too. Doctrine was not quite doctrine.
“And second,” said Moore. “Remember the movement that looks like not moving.” A small frission at that.
There was no communion, no passing out of, what, sacred calamari? Only some discordant and clunky wordless hymn, a silent prayer, and the worshippers left. (101)

The streets of London are stone synapses hardwired for worship. Walk the right or wrong way down Tooting Bec you’re invoking something or other. You may not be interested in the gods of London, but they’re interested in you. (103)

Tennyson and a book of poems by Hugh Cook faced each other, open to competing pages. Billy read the counter to Alfred Lord. /

The Kraken Wakes

The little silver fish
Scatter like shrapnel
As I plunge upward
From the black underworld.
The green waves break from my sides
As I roll up, forced by my season,
And before the tenth second
I can feel my own heat—
The wind can never cool as oceans do.

By mid-morning,
My skin has sweated into agony.
The turmoil of my intestines
Bloats out against my skin.
I’m too sick to struggle—I hang
In the thermals of pain,
Screaming against the slow, slow, slow
Rise toward descent.

And the madness of my pain
Seems to have infected everything—
Cities hack each other into blood;
Ships sink in firestorm; armies
Flail with sticks and crutches;
Obesity staggers toward coronary
Down the streets of starvation. (113)

[The poem in chapter 19, “The Kraken Wakes,” is copyright Hugh Cook, and I am very grateful to his family for permission to reproduce it. –from the Acknowledgments]

We cannot see the universe, Billy read in a text taken at random. It was cobbled in incompetent typeface. /
We cannot see the universe. We are in the darkness of a trench, a
deep cut, dark water heavier than earth, presences lit by our own
blood, little biolumes, heroic and pathetic Promethei too afraid or
weak to steal the fire but able still to glow. Gods are among us and
they care nothing and are nothing like us.
This is how we are brave: we worship them anyway. (114)

Billy spent hours in the sunken library. He saturated himself in deep-water theology and poetics. He looked for specifics about the teuthic apocalypse.
A swallowing up and shitting out, taken from darkness, in darkness. A terrible biting. The elect like, what, skin-bugs, little parasites not, depending on specifics. (122)

Billy looked at the books, textbooks next the visions. He tried, like Vardy, to channel vicarious Damascene scenes. He could imagine these faithful seeing cephalopod biologists as unknowing saints, their vision unknown even to themselves and the purer for that, stripped of ego. And him? Billy had touched the body of God. Kept it safe, preserved it against time, ushered in Anno Teuthis. And because of Goss and the Tattoo, he has suffered for God, too. That was why this congregation protected him. He was not just another saint. Billy was the preserver. Giant-squid John the Baptist. The shyness he saw in the Krakenists was devotion. It was awe.
“Oh for God’s sake,” he said. (123)

In the deep dream, what he had seen was this.
He had been a point of awareness, a soul-spot, a sentient submerged node, and had drifted over an ocean floor that he had seen in monochrome, lightness as it would have been, and that had pitched suddenly into a crevasse, a Mariana Trench of water like clotted shadow. His little selfless self had drifted. And after an inconceivably long time of that drifting, again he had seen a thing below him, rising. A flattening of the dark, coming up out of dark. Beggaring perspective. Dream-Billy knew what it would be, and was afraid of its arms, its many limbs and endless body. But when it came into water faintly lit enough that he cold see its contours, it was a landscape he recognized, because it was him. A Billy Harrow face, Atlantean, eyes open and staring into the sky all the way above. The huge him was long lifeless. Pickled. Skin scabbed, church-sized eyes cataracted by preservation, vast clammy lips peeled back from teeth too big to imagine. A conserved Billy-corpse thrown up by some submerged cataclysm. (126)

On his tray was a glass of murky drink. The inky posset. No one would spike him secretly anymore—the choice was his. The offer was there, the hope, though he was dreaming without the ink’s help. Billy was a hostage-prophet, … (127)

Billy could stay among obsequious jailers. Offering him hallucinogen, taking devout and monkish notes on whatever drivel he subsequently raved.
“Will they come after you?” Billy said. “If you go rogue?”
“What this renegacy would mean! Dane would be without the church that made him, an apostate hero taking faith into the heart of darkness, a paladin in hell. A lifetime of obedience, followed by what?
“Oh yeah,” Dane said.
Billy nodded. He pocketed the ink. He said, “Let’s go.” (129)

“Why don’t you want this?” Billy said when Dane returned. He raised his hands to indicate everything. “The end, I mean. You say it’s ending. I mean, it’s your kraken doing it…”
“No it ain’t,” Dane said. “Or not like it’s supposed to.” (134)

Why wouldn’t the gods of the world be giant squid? What better beast? It wouldn’t take much to imagine those tentacles closing around the world, now would it? (145)

It rained, briefly. When it rains, Dane quoted his grandfather, it’s a kraken shaking the water off its tentacles. When the wind blows, it’s a breath from its siphon. The sun, Dane said, is a glint of biophosphor in a kraken’s skin. (146)

There is no knowing beyond that membrane, the meniscus of death. what can be seen from here is distorted, refracted. All we can know are those untrustworthy glimpses—that and rumour. The prattle. The dead gossip: its is the reverberation of that gossip against the surface tension of death that the better mediums hear. (151)

Dane told Wati the story. “It was bad enough when this lot brought it up, put it in their tank.” Billy was shocked at the anger with which Dane stared at him, suddenly. He had never seen that before. I though you liked the tank, he thought. The Teuthex said… “But since it’s gone it’s got worse. (159)

“You alright, love? You want a hand?” A big young man had approached, fists balled and ready. A friend stood behind him, in the same fight stance.
“If you speak again,” the shabby man said, not glancing at him, still staring at Marge, “or if you step closer, my lad and I will take you sailing, and you will not enjoy what’s under the mizzen. We’ll run you up a dress in taffeta. Do you understand me? If you speak we will bake you oh my god but the worst cake.” His voice was dropping. He whispered but they heard. He turned then and stared at the two potential rescuers. “Oh, does he mean it does he mean it we can take him you take the kid old flabby’s mine ready on the count of three only he does to be honest seem a bit lairy and et cetera. Want some cake?” He made a ghastly little swallowing laugh noise. “Take another step. Take another step.” He did not speak the last two words but exhaled them.
The birds still shouted, the cars complained, and a few metres away people were talking like talking people everywhere, but where Marge stood she was in a cold and terrifying place. The two men who had come to her aid floundered under Goss’s stare. A moment went and they retreated, to Marge’s horrified “No!” The did not leave, only stood a few feet farther away, watching, as if the punishment for losing their nerve was to spectate.
“Now if you’ll forgive the interruption…” And Goss licked the air around her again. Marge was clamped between the two figures as surely as if they actually touched her. (165)

She sat in a beery booth opposite Darius, … (172)

Come champion saddle up time for us to go we must be quick we have a job to do
One moment Billy was deep under the surface of sleep and dreaming so vividly and quickly it was like being in a sped-up film.
saddle up and lets get those
He was under the water, as he was most of the times he slept, now, but it was light not dark this time, the water so bright it was like sunlight; it was daylight he was in; the rocks were deepsea rocks or they were the innards of a canyon; he was in a canyon, overlooked by buttes and mesas, with the sun or some underwater light above him. He was getting ready to die. …
He knew what would come over the rocks and hills for him to grab and with cowboy drama swing himself onto its back as it passed. Architeuthis, jetting, mantle clenching and tentacles out ready to grab prey. He knew it would scud over the plains, sending out limbs to grab hold of what it passed, to anchor itself and hunt.
It came. But something was not as expected.
how do i get on that? Billy thought. do i get in maybe?
What came bucking over the hills was Architeuthis in its tank, the great glass rectangle pitching like a canoe. Formalin sloshing up against the see-through lid and spraying out of edges, in drips, leaving a damp trail in the dust. The kraken in its tank whinnied and reared, the long-dead flesh of the animal sliding. (176-7)

“You should start dreaming for us. You can’t pretend they’re nothing anymore: what you’re seeing’s real. You know that. The kraken’s telling us things. So you got to dream for us.”
“Whatever it is I’m dreaming,” Billy said carefully, “I don’t think it’s the kraken.”
“What the hell else would it be?” Dane did not sound angry, but pleading. “Someone is doing something to it.” He shook his head and closed his eyes.
“Can you torture a dead god?” Billy said.
“’Course you can. You can torture a dead god. You can torture anything. And the universe don’t like it—that’s what’s got the fortune-tellers sick.” (186)

“The mnemophylax is the angel of memory. There’s one in all the memory palaces. But this one screwed up.” …
…the city’s curatorial obsession. Each museum of London constituted out of its material its own angel, a numen of its recall, mnemophylax. They were not beings, precisely, not from where most Londoners stood, but derived functions that thought themselves being. In a city where the power of any item derived from its metaphoric potency, all the attention poured into their contents made museums rich pickings for knacking thieves. But the processes that gave them that potential also threw up sentinels. With each attempted robbery came the rumours of what had thwarted it. Battered, surviving invaders told stories.
In the Museum of Childhood were three toys that came remorselessly for intruders—a hoop, a top, a broken video-game console—with stuttering creeping as if in stop-motion. With the wingbeat noise of cloth, the Victoria and Albert was patrolled by something like a chic predatory face of crumpled linen. (189)

It was a con trick, whose gulled victims were the trick itself. A persuasion. These things she had made, constituted of vague but intensely proud memories… had not existed until a few moments before.
Ghosts were complicated. The reside of a human soul, any human soul at all, was far too complex, contradictory, and willful, not to say traumatized by death, to do anything anyone wanted. In the rare and random cases when death was not the end, there was no saying what aspects, what disavowed facets of persona, might fight it out with others in posthumous identity.
It isn’t a paradox of haunting—it only appears to be to the alive—that ghosts are often nothing at all like the living whose trace they are: that the child visited by the gentle and much-loved uncle succumbed to cancer may be horrified by his shade’s cruel and vindictive needling; that they revenant spirit of some terrorizing bastard does not nothing but smile and try with clumsy ectoplasm intervention to feed the cat but smile with clumsy ectoplasmic intervention to feed the cat his fleshy leg had kicked days before. …
There was another option. Toss up a few crude police-functions that thought they were ghosts.
Doubtless there was some soul-stuff from genuinely deceased officers in the mix. A base, an undercoat of police reasoning. The trick, Collingswood had learnt, was to keep it general. Abstract as possible. She could clot together snips of supernatural agency out of will, technique, a few remnants of memory and, above all, images, the more obvious the better. Hence the cheap police procedurals she burnt. (202)

“Nothing cruel to it, he told me,” Dane said. “Nothing personal. Just like it would’ve been down in heaven.” Down in the dark, freezing heaven, where gods, saints and whales fought. (209)

In contrast to the Tattoo, a relentless innovator of brutality for whom etiquette and propriety were useful for the shock they occasioned when being pissed on, … (216)

Harrow you know more than you know, she wrote. She drew an arrow, pointing at him. Wherever he was, Grisamentum was pining for Billy’s opaque vatic insight. (223)

Billy had another dream at last, that night. He had been feeling vaguely guilty at the lack of oneiric insights. (225)

When he woke Billy felt a different kind of guilt. At the kitsch of the dreams. He felt the universe, exasperated, was giving him an insultingly clear insight, that he was simply missing. (226)

“What happens when you die?” Billy said.
“You mean what my granddad said?” Dane said. “If you was good, maybe you come back in a god’s skin.” A chromatophore, a gushing colour cell. So krakens show emotion by the flexing of their devout dead. (226)

He was back in the water, not braving but frowning, synchronized swimming, not swimming but sinking, towards the godsquid he knew was there, tentacular fleshscape and the moon-sized eye that he never saw but knew, as if the core of the fucking planet was not searing metal but mollusk, as if what we fall toward when we fall, what the apple was heading for when Newton’s head got in the way, was kraken.
His sinking was interrupted. He settled into something invisible. Glass walls, impossible to see in the black sea. A coffin shape in which he lay and felt not merely safe but powerful. (251)

Mistranslation, she had read. If what Noah, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim or the same figure by any other name had been told to build was a ship, why did the Torah not say so? Why was his ark not an oniyah, a ship, but a tebah—a box? Because it was built not to ride the waves God sent, but to move below them. History’s first submarine, in gopher wood, three hundred cubits long, traveling the new world of God’s promise. It harvested the meadows of kelp. But those chosen for the watered paradise had failed, and God had been wrathful and withdrawn the seas. That landscape of punishment was where we lived, exiled from the ocean. (287)

The Communion of the Blessed Flood prayed for the restoration of the wet. … They gave thanks for the tsunami and celebrated the melting of the satanic polar ice, which mockingly held water in motionless marble. … So this little cell, working in what might seem the most blasphemous industry of flood defence. (288)

Her impression was that this man devoutly wishing for the effacing of the world by water, the reconfiguration of all humanity’s cities by eels and weeds, the fertilizing of sunken streets with the bodies of sinners, was a decent enough guy. (289)

Dane, unlike him, had had no angelus ex machina watching. (291)

[Angel:] The kraken went. It did bad. It’s full of guilt.
“It’s left the museum,” Billy said.
All of them. All of us. there’s a fight on against the end thing. No point staying still. They fight the endingness. But it. Was the first to walk. Wants to make amends. Tries always to find you. Look after you.
Billy backed away and bumped into the open-closing door. He stood away from it so the phylax could say in its hinge-squeak, Remembers you. You’re chosen.
“What? I don’t… How? Why’s it chosen me?”
Angels wait for their christs.
Angels wait for their christs?
And you came, born not of woman but of glass.
“I don’t understand.”
Gives you strength—you are Christ of its memory.

“You know why Dane thinks those things happen?” he said. He smiled like at a drinking buddy. “He thinks it’s because of the kraken. He thinks I’m some kind of John the Baptist, or something. But, so, that’s the wrong direction. It’s nothing to do with the squid.
“None of this is anything to do with the squid. It’s the sodding tank.
“Come on,” he said. “You’ve got to admit that’s funny. You know what’s even funnier? The best of it? I was joking.”
Billy had kept a straight face during all his claims to be the first person born of in vitro fertilization. That ridiculous, meaningless gag, made in that place, that for the sake of the rigour of humour he had stuck to, had been overheard by the genius loci, the spirit of the museum. Maybe it was attuned to any talk of bottles and their power. Maybe it did not understand the idea of a joke or a lie. (309-10)

Sellar wrote a message Billy could not see, rolled it up and placed it inside a bottle. He screwed its lid on tight and pushed it through the door’s post flap. Several moments passed, but only several. Billy started when the flap opened and the bottle dropped back out and smashed against the concrete step. The barks of dogs did not abate, nor the calls of children playing late. Billy picked up the paper. He held his doll so Wati could read, too.
The paper was damp. The ink was spread in stain-coronas around the written words, in an intricately curling font, spreading beyond its lines.
Teuthis no long our creature. No longer creature. Not of ocean. We have spoken to the kraken within us to know why this. Neither they nor we are indifferent to what might come. It is no princeling commissar chosen by them or us in the tank. (314)

Another message:
We are not indifferent. To the end in fire. We do not wish London gone. You and the exile Krakenist and we wish the same thing. Our self is a product of concatenate development. The kraken would not have this, this is not about them.
Were the giant squid themselves, or their parents, god instars, their apotheosed others, helping with this? Out of, what, divine irritation at some misrepresentation? “Why this squid?” Billy whispered.
Others are against us. We had thought otherwise. We know now. You must get to the kraken and keep it safe from fire.
“Ooh, d’you think?” Billy muttered. “Thanks for that, hadn’t occurred…” He continued reading. (315)

Strapped in place in the trailer’s centre, cushioned and surrounded with thick industrial cording stretched to the edges and corners, holding it so it barely jostled on the steel table, was the tank. And in it, placed in its death-long bath, was the kraken. …Dane was on his knees. He knelt close to the tank. His eyes were closed, his mouth moving. His hands were clasped. He was weeping. … Kraken, with your reaching, feeling the world to understand it, feel and understand me, your meaningless child, now. (341-2)

He, Billy, had been chosen by the angel of memory for some stupid error, some misapprehended gag. Specimen magic, not the alien majesty of the benthic tentacular.
“Don’t matter,” Dane said, surprising him, as if he’d spoken aloud. “How’d you think messiahs get chosen?” (343)

…a drowned London. The streets were laid out in glow, the streetlights still illuminated, each glare investigated by a penumbra a fish. Crabs as big as the car they pushed aside walked the streets made chasms.
From towers and top floor waved random flags of seaweed. Coral crusted the buildings. Billy’s dream-self sank. There were, he saw, men and women, submerged pedestrians walking slow as flaneurs, window-shopping the long-dead long-drowned shops. Figures ambling, all in brass-topped deep-sea suits. Air pipes emerged from the top of each globe helmet and dangled up into the dark.
No cephalopods. Billy thought, This is someone else apocalypse dream.
But here it came, the intrusion of his own meaning, what he was here for. From the centre of the sunken London came a hot tide. The water began to boil. The walls, bricks, windows and slimy rotting trees began to burn. The fish were gusted away toward the drowned suburbs, the rusting cars and crabs were bowled by the force of what came. And here it came, bowling like a tossed bus the length of this street, this underwater Edgware Road, that skittered under the fly-over and turned. The kraken’s tank.
It shattered. The dead Architeuthis slumped from it, dragged the pavement, its tentacles waving, its rubberizing mantle thick and heavy and moving only with the tide, the gush, flailing not like a cephalopod predator but like the drifting dead god it was. (371)

He must be a pig in shit now, Grisamentum, Billy thought. his worst enemy down, captive. Without their Svengali, enforcers like the Tattoo’s fistmen would fall back unhappily on a loose network of contacts and half-trusted lieutenants, trying to decide what to do. Subby and Goss were the most important of these, and they were many things—including back from wherever they’d been, apparently—but not leaders. (403)

He walked back to where Dane mourned. He waited as long as could bear. “Dane,” he said. “I need you to see this.”
The books were gone. Every single book was gone.
“This must be what they came for,” Dane said. They stared into the empty word-pit. “He wanted the library.”
“He’s—Grisamentum must be researching the kraken,” Billy said.

“It is him,” Billy said. “Whatever it is, it is his plan. He’s the one who wants the kraken, and he wants to know everything about it.”
“But he doesn’t have it,” Dane said. “So what’s he going to do?”
Billy descended the ladder. There was blood from something on his glasses. He shook his head. “He can’t read even a fraction of these. It would take centuries.” (418-9)

“I’m an operative,” Dane said.
“You were excommunicated…”
“Come on now. Please.”
Would would ever have trusted a representative of the cephalopod fundamentalists to deal with the issue of the kraken? A rogue, on the other hand… Who could be more trustworthy?
Billy shook his head. “Jesus Christ,” he said. “It was all an act. You were under the Teuthex’s orders all along.” (438)

Only the Teuthex and his faux-exile operative knowing the squiddish truth, and hunting for the body of god.
“But…” Billy said slowly, “you disobeyed orders.”
“Yeah. I brought you with me and wouldn’t bring you back. And when we found it I didn’t bring it back to them.”
“Because they were going to get rid of it, Billy, as they should. And they were right, but you know how you’d get rid of it? Everyone’s said. It’s true. They would’ve burnt it. That’s the holy way. Having the kraken out there in that tank like that… it’s a blasphemy. So I was to bring it back. But the Teuthex was going to burn it.”
“And then you saw the prophecy.”
“The Teuthex was going to burn the squid. And that’s what they said started… this. This whole thing. What if it was us?” Dane said. He sounded very tired. “What if it was my church, doing the right thing, releasing it like that, but brining on… whatever it is that’s coming?”
It would not have been Dane’s church’s planned end, their infolding of convolutes into the glint of a giant eye, when roaring perhaps at the surface the elder kraken might rise like belligerent continents and die, and spurt out like ink a new time. This would not have been that hallelujah-worthy end, but an antiapocalypse, a numinousless revelation, time-eating fire. An accident.

“But look,” Dane said. He indicated around him. “There’s no one left to burn it now, and that ending still hasn’t gone. So that’s not what’s going to cause it. I was wrong. (439)

The altar, of course, was a mass of carved suckers and interwoven arms. Dane pressed certain of the pads in a certain order. “This is what the Teuthex was going for,” he said.
It had not been some mere valedictory nearer-my-god gesture, the Teuthex’s reach. An inset section of the altar uncoiled. Dane slowly swung the metal front of the altar down.
Behind it was glass. Behind the glass, things preserved. Relics of kraken. Billy gasped as the scale of what he saw made sense to him. The altar was as high as his chest. Filling it almost completely was a beak.
He had seen its shape many times before. Vaguely parrot, extravagantly wicked in its curve. But the largest he had ever seen would have fit his hand, and that would have belonged to an Architeuthis close to ten metres long. This mouthpiece reached out from the floor to his sternum. It would gape large enough to swallow him. When those chitin edges met they might shear trees.
“It’s going to bite me,” Dane said. He spoke dreamily. “Just a nip. Just to draw blood.”
“What? What, Dane? Why?”
“All this lot left. We’re the end crew.”
“But why?”
“So we can attack.”
“What?” said Billy. Dane told him.
Last-ditch defenders were not new. There were always kings under the hill. The golem of Prague—though that was a bad example, had missed its call, a dreadful oversleeping. Each of the cults of London had hopes it its own constructs, its own secret spirits, its own sleeping paladins, to intervene when the minute hand went vertical. The Krakenists had had their berserkers. But the fighters who had volunteered and been chosen for that sacred final duty were all dead, before the Teuthex could effect their becomings. So the last Krakencorps had to be from the ranks of the church’s clerks, functionaries, cleaners and everyday faithful.
What was squiddity but otherness, incomprehensibility. Why would such a deity understand those bent on its glory? Why should it offer anything? Anything at all?
The kraken’s lack of desire for recompense was part of what, their faithful said, distinguished them from the avaricious Abrahamic triad and their quids pro quo, I’ll take you to heaven if you worship me. But even the kraken would given them this transmutation, this squid pro quo, by the contingencies of worship, toxin and faith.

“This…” he said. “It’ll kill you, won’t it?” He said it quietly. He pointed at the beak.
Dane shrugged. Neither of them spoke for seconds.
“It’ll change us,” Dane said at last. “I don’t know. We weren’t meant to be vessels for that kind of power. It’s a glorious was to go, but.” (440-2)

Some of the volunteers tried to smile as they made a line. One by one they placed their hand at the point of the kraken jaw. The hingemen would very carefully scissor the great bite together on their skin. Twice the hook of the jaw tore worse wounds than intended and made the faithful cry out. Mostly the snips were precise—the skin broke, there was a little blood.
Billy waited for drama. The bitten seemed clumsy and large, seemed to cram the cavelike hall. They embraced each other and held their bleeding hands. Dane, the last one, put his own hand in the jaws and had his congregation bite them down. Billy made no reaction at all. (460)

Billy saw those nipped by the squid god.
They were stronger than they had any right to be. They picked up masonry and hurled it. They were misshapen and changing. Tides moved on them; their muscles fluttered in directions they had not been made to take. “Christ,” he whispered. He fired a weak whining jolt at the building, a wild distraction as he stared.
One man was growing Architeuthis eyes, fierce black circles taking up each side of his head, squeezing his features between them. A woman bulged, he body become a muscular tube from which her limbs poked, absurd but strong. A woman streaked across the distance, jetted by her new siphon, moving through the air as if it were water, her hair billowed by currents in the sea miles off. There was a man with arms raised to display blisters bursting and making themselves squid suckers, another with a wicked beak where he had had a mouth.
They tore at the gunfarmers and through the swirl of inked paper. Bullets ripped them, and they roared and bit and smashed back. The suckered man looked hopefully at the inside of his arms. The marks were blebbing into little vacuums, but arms his arms remained. Billy watched him. It was awesome, yes, but.
But was it a godly tease that none of the krakenbit had tentacles?
Dane was not newly shaped. Only, he look back at Billy and his eyes were all pupil now, all dark. He had no hunting arms. (464)

“It’s the library,” Billy said. The soaked, shredded kraken library, rendered to its ink. He pointed through the glass.
All that antique knowledge poured over with solvent, the inks seeped out of the pages where they had been words. Some pigment must be the remains of coffee, the dark of age, the chitin of crushed beetles. Even so, the juice they were collecting was the distillate of all kraken knowledge. And Billy saw, there, presiding over the rendering, on a raised dais, in a great big plain pail, the bulk of Grisamentum. His sloshing liquid body. (465)

A liquid darkness that had been all the Architeuthis secrets, homeopathically recalling the shapes it had once taken, the writing, the secrets it had been. Metabolise that, and Grisamentum would know more about the kraken than any Teuthex ever had. (466)

…old-fashioned perfume nebuliser into Dane’s face and squeezed the bulb. … Dane was drown. His body rilled. Grisamentum filled him, shaped himself on the Dane’ alveoli. Wrote bad spells on the inside of Dane’s lungs. Billy watched Dane die. (467)

Billy saw one still fighting, with, at last, his left hand replaced with a twenty-foot hunting limb, which he dragged and flailed. (468)

There was the kraken in its tank, now emptied of all but a thin layer of preserver. There was Byrne, some bad-magic book under her arm, the bottle of Grisamentum in her hand. A huge syringe jutted from the kraken’s skin. Byrne was tickling, stimulating the dead animal in some obscene-looking way.
The kraken was moving.
Its empty eye-holes twitched. The last, brine-dilute Formalin swilled as the animal turned. Its limbs stretched and untwined, too weak still to thrash, its skin still scabrous and unrejuvenated, but the kraken was alive, or not-dead. It was zombie. Undead.
In panic at the sudden end of its death, it was spurting dark black-brown-grey ink. It spattered against the inside of its tank, and pooled in the last liquid in that last liquid in which the kraken lay. (485)

The pistol in Billy’s hand was gone. Because Grisamentum wrote that there were no guns in that room. “Oh Jesus,” Billy managed to say, and the ink of Grisamentum wrote no across his consciousness. Not even God: he was the very rules God wrote. The gunfarmers stumbled. Byrne was laughing, was rising into the air, tugged by the boss she loved.
Billy felt something very dangerous and forlorn settle, the closing of something open across everything, as history began to flex at someone else’s will. He felt something get ready to rewrite the sky.
The ink gathered into a globe, hovering above the tank. Threads from it took word-shape and changed things. Writs in the air.
The kraken looked at Billy with its missing eyes. It moved. Spasmed. Not afraid, he saw, not in pain. Bottling it up. Bottling it up. Where was his angel? Where his glass-container hero?
This is a fiasco. He might almost have laughed at that strange formulation. It was the catastrophe, the disaster, the, the word was weirdly tenacious in his head, fiasco.
He opened his eyes. That word meant bottle.
It’s all metaphor, Billy remembered. It’s persuasion.
“It’s not a kraken,” he said. The ink-god did not hear him until he said it again, and all the attention in the world was, amused, upon him. “It’s not a kraken and it’s not a squid,” Billy said. The eyeless think in the tank held his gaze.
“Kraken’s a kraken,” Billy said. “Nothing to do with us. That? That’s a specimen. I know. I made it. That’s our.”
A troubled look went across Byrne’s face as she spun on her axis. Bottle magic, Billy thought. The ink shuddered.
“Thing is,” Billy said, in abrupt adrenalized bursts, “thing is the Krakenists thought I was a prophet of krakens because of what I’d done—but I never was. What I am—” Even if by mistake; even if a [487] misunderstanding, a joke gone wrong; even if a will-this-do; how are any messiahs chosen? “What I am is a bottle prophet.” An accidental power of glass and memory. “So I know what that is.”
There was a sink by Billy again, and the wall was coming back, a few inches of it. The bottle kraken wheezed from its siphon. The wall grew.
“It’s not an animal or a god,” Billy said. “It didn’t exist until I curated it. That’s my specimen.”
The new rules were being crossed out. Billy could feel the fight. (487-8)

The specimen pressed its arms against its tank. Suckers pressed vacuum-flush against the plastic, pulling the great body into position. It was not trying to get out—that was where it belonged.
Billy was standing.
He had birthed it into consciousness. It was Architeuthis dux. Specimen, pining for preservative. Squid-shaped paradox but not the animal of the ocean. Architeuthis, Billy understood for the first time, was not that undefined thing in deep water, which was only ever itself. Architeuthis was a human term.
“It’s ours,” he said.
Its ink was vast magic: Grisamentum had been right about that. But the universe had heard Billy, and he had been persuasive.
Maybe if Grisamentum had harvested ink direct form those trench dwellers, not from a jarred, cured, curated thing, the power would have been as protean as he had intended. But this was Architeuthis ink, and it was disinclined to be his whim. “It’s a specimen and it’s in the books,” Billy said. “We’ve written it up.”
The commixed inks raged against each other. The universe flexed as they fought. But as Grisamentum mixed with the ink it mixed with him; as he took its power it took his. And much of Grisamentum had been split: there was more of it than of him. It was specimen ink, curated by a citizen of London, by Billy, …
The wall was back. The kitchen was back. The wet house was full again of dead fish.
“What did you do?” Byrne screamed at Billy. “What did you do?”
The sense, all sense, of Grisamentum, was gone. There was only the undead Architeuthis, still moving, stinking, chemical in its tank, poor skin flaking, poor tentacles palsied, drenched in ink that was nothing, now, but dark grey-brown liquid. (489)

Billy approached the Architeuthis. Baron watched and let him go. He whispered to it as if it were a skittish dog. “Hello,” he said to the preserved eight-metre many-army newborn thing, moving in the dregs of its preserver, (491)

“It’s a matter of persuasion, as perhaps by now you know. It’s all a matter of making an argument. That’s why I wasn’t too bothered by Griz. Is that where you’ve been, with him? With a category error like that in his plan…” He shook his head. Billy wondered how long ago Vardy had insighted what Grisamentum had in mind, and how. “Now, these things were the start of it. They’re where the argument started.”
Billy crept close to the real targets of the time-fire, the real subject of the predatory prophecy. Not and never the squid, which had only ever been a bystander, caught up by proximity. Those other occupants of the room, in their nondescript cabinet, like any other specimen, exemplary and paradigmatic. The preserved little animals of Darwin’s Beagle voyage. (497)

This was a fiery rebooting. Uploading new worldware.
He had remembered Vardy’s melancholy, the rage in him, and what Collingswood had once said. She was right. Vardy’s tragedy was that his faith had been defeated by evidence, and he could not stop missing that faith. He was not a creationist, not any longer, not for years. And that was unbearable to him. He could only wish that his erstwhile wrongness had been right. (497)

The undead specimen Architeuthis shot out its long hunting limbs all the way across the room, from far away. A last predation. It caught the bottle. Took it from the air.
Vardy stared. Vardy screamed in rage.
The time-fire was touching the Architeuthis’s skin, and was burning. The zombie squid’s second hunting arm whipped Formalin-heavy up, around Vardy’s waist with a thwack. It coiled him in. It whipped the bottle toward its mouth. Vardy howled as its shorter arms spread to receive him.
Vardy screamed. The time-fire was roaring, and spreading. The squid was shrinking. Vardy’s arms and legs were shortening.
The squid looked at Billy. He could never put into precise words what it was in that gaze, those sudden eyes, what the bottled specimen communicated to him, but it was a fellowship. Not servility. It did not obey. But it did what it did deliberately, offered it up and looked at him in good-bye.
The time-fire shrank it further, cleared the deadness from its skin, made it smooth. A selfless selfishness. Without evolution, what would it and its siblings be? The deep gods were not this thing’s siblings: it let itself be taken for the sake not of kraken but of the exemplae, all the specimens around them, of all shapes, these bottled science gods. (499)


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