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I am sitting in a cafe in Corvallis (I sorta moved across the country last week. It's still sinking in.), and trying desperately to write something, anything, and all my words are falling out like ashes, and nobody's awake so I can't grasp three random words, and my hamhanded attempts get me "Electronic Construction Fire," which is ridiculous, so I said fuck it, and started writing stream of consciousness, and this is what it got me. I may continue it, or it may just hang around, because I'm thinking it might be one of those things that works best on its own.

The world is round, they say, a sphere of complicated and unwieldy angular shapes thrust together onto a natural world - Picasso meets Dali, perhaps, in a disaster of epic proportions, the like of which may we never see again. The world is round, and spherical, and just one person disagrees, on his tower from which, he claims, he can see the edges of the world, and the water falling off, eternally, into the space. He says we will one day run out of water, that someday, unless the gods undertake an effort to stop it, all the water will have flowed off the edges and into a great dark vacuum that none can comprehend, and we will shrivel and die. He is a madman, of course. The gods themselves have told us the world is round.

It was the gods who made the world, and one would think they knew what sort of world they had made. It is a great ball, hanging suspended in the vacuum, while stars travel around it, weaving complicated patterns against the dark backdrop. There is some debate on whether or not the gods made the stars - they have not spoken in some time, you see, some generations' worth of it. The rationalists say that of course the gods made the stars, and all in the vacuum. Some of them say the stars are the gods. The occultists say that the gods made the world, but the stars are outside their range, and the world travels through them and sees out of the world, out of reality itself. They have not yet come to blows, but it is possible. One wonders if the gods speaking again could solve this.

In the middle of the wilderness, a small group of followers has sprung up among the madman. They follow his every word, and insist that the world is flat, and the waters are pouring off of the edges. Some of them have turned to prayer, imploring the gods to intervene, to turn up the edges of the world and stop the fall of the waters. Some have begun to dig wells, to hold as much water as they can back from the edges before it is too late. The common theory is that the madness is contagious, and so we avoid them. They wear dingy robes and don't hold much with the more complicated forms of hygiene, and so this is easy - some of us wonder what will happen if they ever change their ways, and become more insidious.

Sometimes, one might wonder if the world is round, why we have not seen anyone who has gone all the way around it. The clerics say this, too, is a form of heresy. The world is round, and we know this, because the gods told us that the world was round. Why would we need to prove such a thing? It would be a gesture of remarkable lack of faith, and none of us want that. So none have tried to prove either way for the priests or the madmen. But there is tension in the world, and it is growing - on the horizon, sometimes, there are plumes of smoke rising from the camps of madmen, and every day, the arguing in the street gets louder, and the merchants have begun taking sides. The artisans continue to hold long conversations about higher truths, refusing to dip their toes into the heart of the argument, and the craftsmen's guild have eschewed the conflict altogether - though significant numbers of all, now, have made pilgrimages out to the camps of the mad. Some return. Some do not.

There are a few of us who have begun a plan to leave this city. Not to enter the camps of the mad prophet, nor even to see his tower, but to leave the cities, and their politics, altogether. There was a brawl last night, outside of a temple, that left three with broken teeth and noses, and one unable to move, on the road, moaning piteously. None of us know what will become of him, and this morning, none will admit to having been involved in the brawl. It seems to have been without participants, save the injured, but there were whispers, in the bathhouse, that priests' robes were seen, fleeing the scene.

The plan is discussed only where it cannot be overheard. There are a half-dozen of us who plot, and all of us are trustworthy. We will take only what we need, and leave this city behind, at sunset - we will exit where the camps of madmen are the most sparse, and slip between them in the dark, lest we contract their madness. From there, we will walk to the opposite side of the world. There are tales that are told, in some of the temples, that on the other side of the world, there is a mountain, and on that mountain, the gods dwell. The fact is, if they will not speak to us, then we must speak to them.


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May 2013



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