'How could the Outsider have chosen such a bungler? ...When had he ever offered a single sacrifice, however small, to the Outsider? Never! Not one in his entire life. Yet the Outsider had extended infinite credit to him... Certainly he would never be able to repay the Outsider for the knowledge and the honor, no matter how hard or how long he tried.' (Gene Wolfe, Nightside The Long Sun)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Recall The Sea. And Run!

Garsecg said, “Going down may be infinitely easier, Sir Able. Look above you.”

I did. “The black birds?”

“They are not birds... ”

I was thinking it was like a big video game, except I was on the screen. Or virtual reality maybe. I sort of felt my head for the gear, but there was not any and just then a Khimaira swooped down at me, pulling up just before I could grab it, a little starved body, mostly black but red at the cracks, with claws and jaws and black bat wings… I went up about a hundred more steps, and one whished past so close I could smell it. Another went in back of me, and its wing brushed my head.

“Look about you,” Garsecg warned me. “Heeeeaaaar!

I looked back at him instead. Only he was gone, and where he had been there was a kind of alligator with horns, as big as a cow, and ten or twelve legs. The legs had suckers, and all the suckers were grabbing on to the steps. It lashed its tail and raised its head and roared at the Khimairas, snapping at any that came close. Just then one blindsided me. I fell and barely caught the edge of the stair with the fingers of one hand. They were slipping, and I knew I was going to die when a sucker closed around my wrist and heaved me back up onto the steps.

I was still grabbing and shaking when the alligator’s mouth opened and I saw Garsecg’s face inside it. He said, “Recall the sea. And run!”

I was so scared I could hardly stand up, but as soon as I did, a big wave caught me from behind. Do you know what I mean? My legs ached too, but that did not matter. I went up those stairs like I was flying, three steps at a time. They kept hitting me, or trying to, and once I stumbled. But I never stopped until one dropped down on the step ahead of me with a sword in each hand. It was black and all bones and wings, and its lips would not quite cover its teeth. But the eyes seemed wrong. They were those yellow-fire eyes all the Aelf have, even the Kelpies and the ones who gave me Gylf, the same kind of eyes Disiri used to have even when the rest looked just like a human girl. When I looked at them all I could think of was her.

It opened out its wings when it saw I had stopped. With those big black wings open it looked as big as a house. “You musst fight usss.” Its voice was mostly hiss, but you could understand. “Ssee? I have sswordss for uss both.”

It held one out hilt first, but I did not take it. I hit the pommel with the flat of my hand instead and drove the sword backward into the Khimaira’s chest. Its eyes got big and scared then, and stuff that was not quite blood spurted out of the wound, and it fell off the stair. I thought that had been pretty easy, but before I could take another step, five hit me all at once, not to knock me off but grabbing me and lifting. I had one on each leg and one on each arm, and one had its claws in my hair. They flew with me so fast it was like falling up in a hurricane. I saw there were windows and balconies and arches and torn places in the sides of the skyscraper, and way up above us but getting closer and closer was Mythgarthr: trees and people, animals and mountains.

(Gene Wolfe, The Wizard Knight)

And the action continues from there… but how Lafferty-esque is some of this! And Wolfe is just being himself in this particular medium, therefore the resemblance is mostly unintentional I think (I say ‘mostly’ because of course Wolfe is an avid admirer of Lafferty and has no doubt unconsciously imbibed elements of storytelling from him).

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