Monday, November 19, 2007

Ipha and the Spider Faeries-- an Excerpt from THE WORD Is Law

Ipha Bloom- nee Ipha Calhoun- was a graphomaniac. The walls of her room at Wyndham House (Ben liked to call it the House of Wind and Ham, but not out loud) were papered in fiction. The floor was piled high with composition notebooks, the kind with the black and white covers. Ipha liked those. They reminded her of cows.

Ipha wasn’t crazy. She had never been crazy. The world- Ipha’s son, her dead husband, her longer-dead parents, the Fresno County Board of Appeals- had no idea what to do with her, because they had not been told the truth by people who knew it. As far as Ipha was aware, she was the only person who knew the truth these days. All the rest had died off or sold out to Big Pharma. Ipha had tried to explain it to them all, but the poor dears, they were not prepared.

She felt the worst about her son, Paul. All her fault he wasn’t ready. In all honesty she had not known how to break it to him when he was young, and by the time she thought he was old enough to understand, he didn’t believe in much other than girls and money and the war and God knows what else goes on in the mind of a teenaged boy. He had not wanted to listen.

Her grandson Ben loved to listen, though. He was the one who sent her the composition books. Bless him to heaven. And pens, the good ones. Ipha was not at risk for flight or suicide. She loved life, and she loved it the most in her room where everything belonged to her and everything was as sacred and as profane as she wanted it to be. She could have the good pens. She was never a danger to anyone.

Sometimes she sent books to her grandson. He would read them, Ipha knew, because he sent back critiques. Constructive, of course. Benny was not one of those who got a thrill out of making his sweet Grammy out to be a worthless hack. He used lovely college words, like deleterious and comestible. He talked about the motivations of the characters, and he asked questions about their lives and interests. With Benny’s help, Ipha had written the same novel four times over, twice starting from scratch. She had never told him the truth, but he seemed to know it instinctively, though it was unspoken. For a while Ipha thought Paul had explained it all to Benny. Otherwise, how would her grandson be so thoughtful, and so sensitive to his Grammy’s spiritual needs? But then the spider faeries had informed her that innate knowledge of the truth was often passed through the DNA.

Benny didn’t see the spider faeries, they had said through their collective hive-mind telepathic communication system, but he understood their precepts by genetic predisposition. Paul had carried this capacity for understanding, but the trait had been recessive. Benny, such a good boy, had been fortunate enough to receive the attribute, and it had flourished within him. The spider faeries had told Ipha that Paul had played his part by exposing little Ben to Ipha and her room at Wyndham House when the boy had turned thirteen years old.

In that room, Ben had seen all his mind had needed to see to process what Ipha was going though. Something, he knew not what, compelled her to tell these stories. They were in Ipha’s head and needed to get out. Ben saw no spider faeries, but he saw the things they said to her. He saw the fruits of their incessant pestering, their noises like static and the clicking of mandibles and the tippity tappity scuttle skittle of buggy feet on the inside of Ipha’s skull, and the flapping of wings everywhere. He saw and he understood.

Ben saw the models of the universe that the spider faeries had urged Ipha to draw. Hideous, nonsensical, infantile. Connect the dots. You think this is deep? Grade-school poppycock. Paint by numbers. Twenty-three, forest green. Nineteen, burnt sienna. Seventy-five, tequila bile yellow. The universe could not be shaped this way. All the evidence was against it.

“Evidence? Schmevidence!” clicked the spider faeries in unison. Ipha’s ears bled from the volume. She squeezed her eyes together against the pain. Instinct raised her hands to her ears but this was pointless, for the sound came from inside. The spider faeries flew from her mouth. They worked their way through her nostrils into the world. It was amazing how they could get through such tight spaces. Their wings folded down, and Ipha’s natural defense system kicked in with the lubrication, but still. The spider faeries were as big as her hands, plus wings, when they were dry and ready for action.

It was as if the spider faeries were balloons that inflated to their full size once they came back into the world. An unseen force tied their ends off so the air stayed in them. Of course, this wasn’t so, and the very moment Ipha thought of it the spider faeries disabused her of the idea.

“Don’t be stupid,” they said. “There is no unseen force.”

The spider faeries went on to explain to Ipha for the twenty-seven millionth time how the universe actually is, was, and always will be.

According to the spider faeries, Ipha’s dimension, lengthwidthdepthtime (LWDT)[1] was originally nothing but ick. All the nasty things a person could imagine, and also plenty of awful things that a person was not even slightly imaginative enough to come up with, resided here. All the pleasant things, from puppy dogs to birthday cake, to not hitting a guy on a bicycle with one’s souped-up Ford Explorer when one was driving home from the deli, existed in the twelfth dimension.

The twelfth dimension was a ninja. It was so smart and elusive that even M-theorists had not accounted for it yet. At some point in the early history of the universe, LWDT (pronounced l’widit), who was a little slut, had allowed the twelfth dimension to probe its black hole. As a result of their tryst, the most probable things, brilliant and unspeakable, moved into LWDT, and the least probable things, pleasant and not very nice at all, settled comfortably into the twelfth dimension.

Every time a thing came together with an other, a little bit of the other remained with the thing after the two had parted ways. There were some persons, places, and things in LWDT that kept a little bit of improbability clinging to their grippier or more attractive textures. In a weird turn of events, dimension twelve was able to wash what was probable off its exposed parts with a hot shower and a shave. So while the probable things were unable to break into the twelfth dimension, LWDT in certain places and people and things gave passage to the improbable. Ipha was one of these doorways.

She was so lucky! An inquisitive person might ask if it hurt to give birth to spider faeries through the nostrils.

“Yes!” Ipha would answer without hesitation. “Jesus, of course it hurts! My skin used to stretch so far, but even in those days it was difficult. Cartilage is a good structural tissue. It doesn’t want to budge, with good reason. And let me remind you that we are talking about creatures as big as my hand. I have small hands, I will grant you, but I’m an Irish peasant, not a Chinese noblewoman. I ain’t that delicate.

“Nowadays,” Ipha would say, “My skin doesn’t stretch a lot. It is very dry and much less pliable. I think all the training I have had throughout my life in stretching my skin to the extent that it has done so far is what has kept me able to bring them through. If a person were to try to bring the spiders through for the first time at my age, I don’t think she could do it. We are not just talking about the nostrils. They come through the mouth, as well. Up through the esophagus. It’s difficult to breathe, as I’m sure you’d imagine. They work their way up, and you’ve got to help them come through with your muscles or… die, I suppose.

“I never was afraid to die,” Ipha would point out, “until I got old.”

[1] Shortened to Spacetime by proponents of efficiency. However, advocates of those existing in dimensions one and two argued that a point by itself was part of space, without having mass or width, and yet not part of space, because it had no mass or width, and therefore should be mentioned separately in the name of the dimension. Credit where credit was due, and all that.

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