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Squid #533
(published April 7, 2011)
Ask the Giant Squid: Alpha and Omega
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid:

What awaits you, as time proceeds into the future, and as all things must surely pass?

Dear Question Person,

The future contains my past.

As I float here in these dingy waters, as I consider the decay of my adopted city, as it descends into chaos, its population dropping to below 750,000 grunt-chimp souls; as the services fall away, as the tax base crumbles, I am left to wonder about my own future. I wonder how I might apprehend it, my future, and once grasped into my many tentacles, what it might contain.

You see, I feel as though the whole of the world is unwinding, and not one thing can be put back into its rightful place. All things are out of their order and orbit, and all notions are in a jumble. Past is future, and future is past.

Thoth, that most pernicious emanation of the Godhead, was himself once reclining upon the banks of his own grisly river, the Nile, when such thoughts passed over the transom of his mind. He dangled his arm in the waters as they flowed passed, and he recalled what Herodotus would one day say, "That we do not walk in the same river, each time we do cross it anew" and while he considered his own nostalgia for the future, he was struck then by the silhouette of the Ibis in flight, and as the black marks upon the parchment sky twisted and unfolded, he beheld sounds carved into an absence in the light, shadows across the great eye of Ra.

He looked out at the horizon, and there he saw the waters of the river mingle with the waters of the air, and the waters of the desert mingled with the waters of the sky. But when the Ibis intersected with the horizon, and blotted out the light, a cut was made in the belly of all things.

It was in this way that letters were formed.

The men in those days were just beginning to make sounds as they saw things, but as soon as they said a thing they saw, the sounds would slip away, and all meaning commingled with all sounds, and all things commingled one with the other, and there was no sense. The creatures of the terribly dry Upspace lived nigh onto a million years in this state: no past, no future, no heaven and no earth. Only an ongoing now. And it was in this state that Thoth preferred that they would stay.

Having collected some 22 shadows, he began to mark them on flattened reeds, and having little else to draw upon, he would match the sounds of the shapes to the grunts of the chimp-men, and as he did this, he would echo their sounds to capture them in his notes.

And as he echoed their grunts, though they could not see the god, they heard him in their hearts, and thus the sounds and the things ensounded, slowly became linked. The apis, the alp, the aleph, the alpha, the ox.

And some saw the Ibis, and heard these sounds in his shape, and it was in this way that the great balance of timeless time unraveled, as a dune is moved grain by grain in the wind.

These shaped sounds, and ensounded shapes, were cut into soft clay, and then finally the whole shapes were etched onto metal punches and driven into soft metal. And it was in this way that products were enumerated in warehouses, and possessions were marked as owned. The strike of a letterpunch into a cherished goblet transformed, through its magic, one man into a prince, and another into a thief. For the man with many letters on his tablets could hold the spirits of many men, and the man with few letters must beg for a pittance.

And so the letters shifted the sands.

And it was late in this age that Thoth wrote many of his observations down into a book, and when he was completed he looked down at what he had made. For in it, he had discovered that the letters, the words, the incantatory truths, had formed into two spells. One, for the speaking of man with animals. And the second, for seeing the Gods as they are among men.

The magic of words, which had cut the world apart into a thousands tiny things, into palaces and hovels, into armies and peasants and princes and priest, also contained within them the power to pull apart all that divides, even beyond the balance of the ancient days and into the primordial chaos before time began.

And so he locked the book away, and marked it with his mark, and guarded it against all comers. He set it up on the highest branch, and clothed it in red flesh, and set it behind a gate, and before that gate he placed a flaming sword.

And the men punched letters into their metalworks, and carved letters into their standing stones, and inscribed letters onto the flesh of dead animals, and into scrolls, and on folded pages, and across vast sheets of silk. Slowly by hand they named each thing, and inscribed each thing with that name, and carved the plenty of the earth into smaller and smaller sets, and subsets, and subsets of subsets, and made a game of the division, seeking balances inside of balances.

And from these letters they built words, and stories, and epics, and insights, and ideas about the universe and the heart of man. Out of the dust they walked into cities and villas and theaters and castles and cathedrals, temples and tombs. And they put names on swords, and on cups, and on statues and on the dead. Coins over eyes, and spells in mouths.

And then one man took a letterpunch and drove it into a planchet of brass, and fixed the punched letter against the mouth of a mold, and with fire, melted metal, casting a thousand A's from one mold.

And from his foundry poured a millions letters, and those letters were arranged, and rearranged, into forms of type. What hands had done in years, a press did in hours. Words beget books, and books beget libraries, and from each voice there sprang a voice to answer it.

And Thoth sat beside his book and considered that the magic was already out.

So says the Giant Squid, an animal of the sea, who sees even now the Gods walking amongst men.

I Remain,
Your Giant Squid

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see other pieces by this author | Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid? Read his blog posts and enjoy his anthem (and the post-ironic mid-1990s Japanese cover of same)

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