aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 52: The King Of Light Beheld Her Mourning

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the possible values of x and f(x).
kingjamesprogramming.tumblr.com

July 29, 2001
Gulf Of Mexico

Winter ended. Summer passed. Another and another. Uriel taught Sohu for eight more years after the eclipse, eight years without her aging a day.

In 1993, Sohu used Kefitzat Haderech to join her family in Colorado for Hanukkah. Her father said nothing when she came unannounced, striking the table deep in her father’s bunker in the form of a lightning bolt, just smiled, and said she was welcome, and that he hoped this meant she would be visiting more often.

In 1994, when Sohu was twelve years old by the calendar, Uriel suggested she get a Bat Mitzvah. “I’m not Jewish and I never age!” Sohu protested. “WHAT ARE YOU?” asked Uriel. “Half Hopi Indian, a quarter Hindu, and a quarter comet,” she said. “WHAT DO HALF-HOPI QUARTER-HINDU QUARTER-COMET PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY TURN TWELVE?” asked Uriel. “Order in pizza,” said Sohu. So they did.

In 1995, Sohu mastered Turkish, just to make Uriel happy, and Proto-Turkic to boot. Then she learned Aramaic, so she could tease him about a language he couldn’t understand.

In 1996, Uriel declared that Sohu understood Yetzirah sufficiently to attempt contact with the world above it, Briah. The first time Sohu touched Briah, she accidentally made all the rivers in the world run in reverse. “AT LEAST YOU ARE CONSISTENT,” Uriel told her.

In 1997, Sohu declared that she was going to learn to cook. She brought a stove, an oven, and several cabinets full of ingredients back with her to the hurricane and very gradually progressed from awful to terrible to at-least-better-than-manna. She made Uriel try some of her concoctions. He always said they were VERY GOOD, but when pressed he admitted he didn’t have a sense of taste and was calculating in his head how the gustatory-receptor binding profiles would work.

In 1998, Sohu stayed in the hurricane almost full-time, trying to get a sufficient grasp of the archetypes and correspondences that she could touch Briah without messing it up. The going was difficult, and the occasional successes almost inevitably marked by failures that followed soon afterwards.

In 1999, Sohu stood with her stepmother, her brother and her two sisters in Colorado Springs while her father’s army went off to war. Her heart soared at the glory of the moment, and she wondered if it had been like this long ago, in the days Uriel used to speak of when the heavenly hosts would march forth against Thamiel. She searched the higher worlds for omens of their defeat or victory, but all she managed to do was make all of the rivers run in reverse again. “FROM NOW ON, NO MORE GOING TO BRIAH UNTIL I TELL YOU TO,” Uriel warned.

in 2000, Sohu interrupted her meditations to attend her stepmother’s funeral. Her father looked older. Much older. She had the strangest feeling that she had seen him like that once before, a long time ago, but she couldn’t quite place the memory.

In 2001, she was sitting on her cloud, studying Torah, when Uriel suddenly asked her “DO YOU FEEL IT?”

“Feel what?”

“YOU TELL ME.”

She stepped into Yetzirah, examined the archetypes. Looked out through the dreamworld, saw all the dreams in place.

She needed a higher vantage. She very gingerly took another step up, into Briah, the place that even Yetzirah was a metaphor for. There were no archetypes in Briah, only wellsprings of creative energy that might eventually become archetypes. Something about a mem. A samech. A lamed. Mem connected Hod to Netzach; Samech connected Hod to Tiferet. Lamed connected Hod to Yesod. Hod was splendor, Hod was energy channeled for a purpose. Mem. Samech. Lamed. M-S-L. Three different aspects of splendid, directed energy.

A roaring sound brought her back to Assiah. Uriel reached out and caught the missile bearing down on them, pinched the flame coming out of its rear with his fingers.

“Oh,” said Sohu. Then “No.”

“NO WHAT?”

“Don’t do it.”

“DO WHAT?”

“Anything! Don’t do whatever the missile is about! Either it’s a trap from Thamiel, or it’s a well-intentioned offer that will blow up in your face. You remember what Father told you. You are not good at this sort of thing. Just send them a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’. You don’t want – ”

Sohu shut up. Uriel was looking at the message a little too long. She couldn’t get a good read on him. “What is it? Is something wrong?”

“IT’S FOR YOU,” he said, and set the rocket down on her little cloud. The cloud strained under its weight, but didn’t break.

Sohu, said the message on the side of the missile. It was her sister Nathanda’s handwriting, blocky and forceful. Father is dead. Other King killed him. Can explain later. We need you. Come home.

No, thought Sohu.

Father did a lot of things. He fought demons, he saved cities, he found the Explicit Name, he rebuilt nations. But he didn’t die. It wasn’t in his nature. He wasn’t immortal. He was just too busy. Dying wasn’t convenient to his plans. He was the Comet King. If something wasn’t convenient to his plans, it didn’t happen. Heaven and Earth might fall away, the mountains could crumble, but the Comet King’s plans proceeding in an orderly fashion, that was fixed.

Father couldn’t be dead. It was a trap. Thamiel or someone. Her family’s enemies. The Untied States government. Someone was faking the death of the Comet King. Right?

She remembered their last conversation. He was grim, yes, he’d lost some of his hair, there was an edge to his voice, but…dead? It didn’t make sense. Other people died, and the Comet King mourned or avenged them. The Comet King didn’t die. Father didn’t die. It was…it was like Uriel dying. The world wouldn’t allow it.

“Uriel,” she said, her throat clenching up, “get me TV, or radio, some kind of news source.”

The angel created ex nihilo a large copper rod, suspended it in the air, then performed some sort of magic around it that turned it into a radio receiver.

“…still recovering from the Battle of Never Summer,” said a crisp male voice in Mid-Atlantic English. “The Comet King’s body was retrieved during the fighting by his daughter Jinxiang and is now lying in state in Colorado Springs. The Other King seems to have been severely wounded as well, and his army has halted their advance into the Rockies. We turn now to…”

Sohu sent a bolt of lightning at the copper rod, and it tarnished into a beautiful verdant green, then crumbled into dust and fell into the sea below.

A second later, Sohu followed.

She dove headfirst off the cloud, shouting incantations, plunging faster and faster until she glowed like a meteor. She struck the ocean, but didn’t stop, shot all the way into the furthest depths of the sea. She came to rest in front of a monster of the deep, one of those horrible fish that are all mouth and jaws. She punched it in the nose.

“Don’t just float there!” she said. “Defend yourself!”

The anglerfish looked at her, confused. This situation wasn’t in its behavioral repertoire.

Sohu punched it again with her left hand, the hand on which the Comet King had placed his sign long ago, his promise to come to her aid if she were ever injured.

The anglerfish finally came to a decision and bit her left hand off.

Sohu floated beneath the sea for one second, then two seconds, then three seconds. Nothing happened. She watched in the anglerfish’s ghostly half-light as a stream of blood leaked into the water around her. No sudden flare of power. No one appearing by lightning bolt to defend her. She couldn’t believe it. She kept waiting. Five seconds. Ten seconds. Twenty. The anglerfish munched on the hand contentedly, not really sure what had provoked this stroke of luck but content to enjoy it.

She shot up from the depths, into the light zone, then into open air, then back to the hurricane.

“YOUR ARM IS BLEEDING,” said Uriel. “I CAN FIX…”

“He’s dead,” said Sohu, as she traced letters in the air, causing the bleeding limb to cauterize and heal over into a stump. “He’s really, really dead. I don’t…he can’t…he made me promise I wouldn’t die before him, but I never thought…never thought that…”

“THERE.” said Uriel. Then he repeated: “THERE.”

“Where?” asked Sohu.

“I AM NOT SURE. I AM TOLD THIS IS A WAY TO CONSOLE PEOPLE.”

“What?” she asked. Then “Why? Uriel, how could this happen?”

“I AM NOT SURE. THE OTHER KING CONCERNS ME.”

“Concerns you?”

“I CANNOT GET A GOOD READ ON HIM.”

“You’re practically omniscient! How can you just…not be able to read a whole king?”

“I DO NOT KNOW.”

“God. This is so awful. I’ve got to go help them.”

“YOU MUST STAY HERE.”

“What – no! My family needs me! They’re going to be so – Father needs me. If he were here, he would want me to help.”

“HE WOULD WANT YOU TO STAY HERE AND DEFEND THE MACHINERY OF HEAVEN.”

“He would want me to help my family. And Colorado. That’s what he cared about.”

“HE CARED ABOUT THE WORLD.”

“That’s not true. That was…an act he put on. He loved his family and his people more than anything.”

“I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU ARE RIGHT.”

“When I was little, every night, no matter how bad things were, he’d come and spend time with me and my brother and my sisters. He’d read us stories, or discuss the events of the day with us. He’d come to us with his problems, and ask us how we’d solve them, and then…then…he’d tell us why it wouldn’t work, and Nathanda would always want to negotiate, and Caelius would always want to start some complicated plot, and Jinxiang would always want to fight, and I was too little to even say anything but he’d always just smile at me and say ‘Sohu is right, I should stay very quiet and wait for things to develop further, good job Sohu!’ and kiss me on the cheek, and I would laugh, and everybody would laugh.” Sohu started crying.

“I ALSO HAVE A STORY,” said Uriel. “I WANTED TO KNOW WHY HE SENT YOU TO ME. I ASCENDED TO BRIAH AND READ THE OMENS. HE SENT YOU BECAUSE HE THOUGHT THERE WOULD NEED TO BE SOMEBODY TO MAINTAIN THE UNIVERSE IF HE HAD TO KILL ME. HE THOUGHT I WOULD BE ANGRY IF I KNEW THIS. BUT IT DOES NOT BOTHER ME. THERE NEEDS TO BE SOMEONE BESIDES ME. HE WAS RIGHT. THE COMET KING CARED ABOUT THE WORLD. IT WAS ALWAYS FIRST.”

“That…that was who he was. He always wanted what was best for everybody. That was all he ever did. Try to help people.” Sohu started crying harder. “Father…was so sad for his last few years. I always thought…he’d get over it, that he’d meet someone else, that he’d feel happy again. After everything he did, Father deserved to die happy. But he must have…been…so miserable. Uriel, how do you bear it?”

“BEAR WHAT?”

“The world…is so sad? Mother…gone. Now Father is gone. Thamiel always wins in the end. And the Machinery is going to fail soon, and Father isn’t around to help, and how do you bear it?”

“KNOCK KNOCK.”

“I know one of your books on humans probably says that humor is supposed to cheer us up when we’re sad, but please, not now, I don’t think I could…”

“KNOCK KNOCK.”

“…who’s there?”

“A SPIDER.”

“A spider who?”

“A SPIDER BEING BROKEN, OR BECAUSE OF BEING BROKEN, RISE UP AND BUILD ANEW.”

In spite of herself, the corners of Sohu’s mouth almost started to smile. “That was actually not completely awful,” she said.

“THANK YOU.”

“And you’re right. I’ve got to stay strong.” She briefly disappeared into her cottage, started taking out her books and possessions, loading them into the flying kayak.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“Getting ready. People need me.”

“I NEED YOU.”

“You’re…you’re Uriel. You don’t need anything.”

“I LIKE YOU.”

“I like you too.”

“YOU ARE MY FRIEND.”

“I’m sorry I have to go. But Father’s dead. Nathanda says they need me. You’ve never had a family. You wouldn’t understand.”

“YOU ARE MY FAMILY.”

“Really?”

“IN THE OLDEN DAYS, THE ANGEL SAMYAZAZ AND HIS FOLLOWERS FLED HEAVEN TO ESTABLISH A KINGDOM ON EARTH, WHERE THEY LAY WITH THE DAUGHTERS OF MEN. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THE DAUGHTERS OF MEN WERE SO INTERESTING. UM. BUT. UM. YOU ARE VERY INTERESTING.”

“Um,” said Sohu.

“YOU ARE NICE AND YOU ARE SMART AND YOU HELP ME FEEL BETTER WHEN THINGS ARE BAD AND WHEN YOU ARE AROUND EVEN THAMIEL DOES NOT BOTHER ME AS MUCH. I DO NOT WANT YOU TO GO.”

“I’m sorry, Uriel. I like you too. And I’ll come to visit often. Now that I know Kefitzat Haderech it won’t be hard. I can come visit sometimes and you can keep teaching me.”

“CELESTIAL KABBALAH IS NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN LEARN PART-TIME.”

“You told me I’d never learn it in a human lifetime anyway. What’s the difference?”

“RABBI TARFON SAID: IT IS NOT TO YOU TO COMPLETE THE WORK, BUT NEITHER ARE YOU FREE TO DESIST FROM IT.”

“Well, Rabbi Tarfon didn’t have a flying kayak. I’m free to go wherever I want.”

“PLEASE STAY.”

“Father needs me, Uriel.”

“PLEASE STAY. JUST FOR ONE MORE DAY.”

“What difference does one more day make?”

“MANY THINGS CAN HAPPEN IN A DAY.”

“Like what?”

“THINGS.”

Uriel was, as usual, unreadable.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll stay a day. One more day.”

Uriel was barely listening as he manipulated the strings of letters around him. Something was up, that was for sure.

She sighed and went back to her cottage to cry.

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102 Responses to Chapter 52: The King Of Light Beheld Her Mourning

  1. Christmas says:

    Frist

  2. Pickle says:

    Typo: “Uriel,” she said. her throat clenching up, -> “Uriel,” she said, her throat clenching up,

    I liked Uriel’s joke, but this chapter made me sad.

    It would be nice if something nice happened.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nitpick thread.

    M-S-L

    Last time a missile delivered a message, it was M-S-S.

  4. Kalveti says:

    I wonder how long Uriel can stretch a day, when motivated to not lose the only member of his family.

    • Wren says:

      “The world is cruel / The world is wicked
      It’s I alone whom you can trust in this whole city
      I am your only friend”

      “And out there / Living in the sun
      Give me one day out there
      All I ask is one / To hold forever
      Out there”

      So are Uriel & Sohu: Quasi / Frollo, Frollo / Quasi, or Quasi / Esme?

  5. Stib says:

    Hmm, I can’t tell if Uriel is actually expressing romantic feelings, or just very strong familial feelings.

    • Lux Sola says:

      For a creature like Uriel, is there really a difference? He can’t have sex, and doesn’t experience physically attraction. All his feelings are platonic.

      • Sonata Green says:

        Furthermore, he’s made of metaphors and the things that the physical world are metaphors for. His feelings, like the rest of him, are not so much ordinary feelings as the Platonic forms of feelings.

    • benzrf says:

      my impression was that it was a joke, and that he doesn’t really understand the different significance of what he said

  6. Sniffnoy says:

    “You’re practically omniscient! How can you just…not be able to read a whole king?”

    “I DO NOT KNOW.”

    A little reminiscent of how Uriel spoke of Acher earlier, maybe? 🙂

    • CalmCanary says:

      Does this mean the Other King is Aramaic?

      • 75th says:

        I continue to find reasons to hold out hope that The Other King is or is strongly connected to Jesus

        • -_- says:

          Maybe?

          But it feels like it would be weird having TWO Messiah-characters born of a deity and a virgin birth/teen pregnancy…

          • Pablo says:

            The messiah can be produced from the most virtuous generation or from the most evil generation. We get two messiahs, one from each.

          • Chana Messinger says:

            In chapter 43, Thamiel says:

            Saadia Gaon says that if Israel is good, they’ll get one Messiah, the Messiah, the Messiah son of David. If Israel is bad, they’ll need two Messiahs. Messiah ben David will be the second. The first will be Messiah ben Joseph. He’ll do all of the classic Messiah things – rule gloriously, judge wisely, defeat evil. Then he’ll meet an evil he can’t defeat and die. Horribly. Really, really horribly. Everything he worked for will be destroyed. The world will be racked with horrors until it becomes as a rotting corpse. Then Messiah ben David will come and make everything better and save everyone. Except Messiah ben Joseph. He’s still very, very dead.

      • Warren Peace says:

        The other king is a language? I don’t see how that would work

    • dsotm says:

      Sohu only brings up the notion of ToK being EBA in 2017 so presumably whatever happens the next day is not directly relevant to him or another case of bident-induced amnesia.

  7. dsotm says:

    He’s gonna try to clone Sohu ? is there some sort of Caballistic no-cloning theorem involving the soul ?
    Also at some point Sohu is supposed to gaze upon the Adam Kadmon, might as well be related.

  8. Matt says:

    I was worried there wouldn’t be a chapter on Christmas. Glad I was wrong.

  9. LHC says:

    At some point, Sohu will be at the mercy of a terrible enemy who wants the worst for her, and she will tell it to do whatever it wants, but just not to send her to patch Briah.

  10. Grort says:

    Someday there will be a river-related emergency where it’s super important that the rivers stop flowing into the ocean…

  11. Chapters 45 and 50 didn’t mention a stump.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Hm. Could be a failure to mention, could be a continuity error, or she could have healed herself later. (Or someone else perhaps could have with an appropriate Name.) Right now I’m guessing it was healed somehow.

    • anon says:

      Uriel said he could fix. He probably got around to fixing.

  12. Eneasz Brodski says:

    omg, so many <3s. ty.

  13. Ybell says:

    What I liked most about this chapter is how relaxed the pace is. Usually I feel something rushed about the chapters, about the things that are non-plot essential. And–as a matter of personal taste–I don’t like the feeling that everything besides the plot is treated as a filler. And this is why I get sort-of angry every time the comment section is “what a horrible chapter, we didn’t learn anything new” — because that’s not the sole point of a good story. And in this chapter I felt a growing connection to both Uriel and Sohu, which is something I didn’t have before.

    • Anonymous says:

      This chapter wasn’t pure filler, though. We learn that the Comet King’s death probably wasn’t a ruse, like Simeon suggested. We learn about some kabbalistic powers Sohu gained, which may be relevant later. We learn that Uriel knew about The Comet King’s plan and didn’t mind it. We learn that Uriel became attached to Sohu and is probably going to do something stupid because of it. The plot moved forward, however slowly.

      If the previous chapter had subtle information like that weaved into it in this way, beyond attempting to make readers go ‘OMG THE KOMET KING IS IN WUV!!1’, I’d have no issue with it.

      • Ninmesara says:

        How is it probable that it wasn’t a ruse? She heard about it on the radio (which proves nothing, of course), and then he failed to come after her when she did a stupid thing that never really endangered her life (she is immortal, remember?). Whould the Comet King risk exposing his ruse just to humor his youngest child (who can’t place herself in real danger)?

        This chapter doesn’t argue for or against the Comet King’s death being a ruse… And given the fact that the priest in the boat is Father Ellis, there is something fishy going on. Maybe the Captain is not the Comet King, but it is very probably that he didn’t die against the Other King.

        • Anonymous says:

          I mean, if Father John knows, TCK might have let his children in on the secret as well; this chapter reveals it isn’t the case, unless there’s some mischievousness hidden in the ‘Can explain later.’ line.

          Maybe The Comet King has indeed a reason to maintain this paranoid level of secrecy, but so far I don’t see any reasons suggested by the story.

          • Ninmesara says:

            Hm… I had totally missed the possible significance of the ‘Can explain later’ line. I can see why he would tell the priest instead of his children, though. After all, the priest is old and wise and is probably good at keeping secrets.

          • Cinz says:

            I don’t really believe so, but perhaps it was important for TCK to mislead Uriel, not Sohu; that’s why Sohu could be told the truth later, but not in the presence of Uriel.

        • The coment king says:

          I doubt that’s the case, but it could be that the captain is just TCK’s old captain from when he was sailing, and that he knows Ellis from back in their sailing days.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Usually I feel something rushed about the chapters, about the things that are non-plot essential.

      That’s curious… I usually feel that the plot is rushed and that the plot unimportant parts are given a leisurely pace, but that’s probably entirely subjective.

  14. linkhyrule5 says:

    In 1995, Sohu mastered Turkish, just to make Uriel happy, and Proto-Turkic to boot. Then she learned Aramaic, so she could tease him about a language he couldn’t understand.

    Just… on a happier note than the doom and gloom: Sohu is great.

  15. Max says:

    Wait, are you telling me the goddamn Kwisatz Haderach is an esoteric Jewish thing?

    Well, okay, I guess that makes sense.

    • dsotm says:

      Most of Dune’s terminology is a mix of Hebrew and Arabic, and the entire setting is allegorical to the skirmish over the middle east around the first world war – Lawrence of Arabia et. al.

  16. Peter D says:

    “AT LEAST YOU ARE CONSISTENT,” Uriel told her.
    As opposed to complete?

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      Well, we know there are some things Sohu doesn’t know. So, yes, she is not complete but consistent.

      She also happens to know this, but the consistency is declared by Uriel and not her, so there is no risk of contradiction until she manages to prove it herself.

      • Decius says:

        So long as her proof of consistency only results in a small inconsistency, to include the principle of explosion and Löb’s not working, it wouldn’t be that bad.

  17. Quixote says:

    I liked this chapter a lot.

  18. Elijah says:

    “A SPIDER BEING BROKEN, OR BECAUSE OF BEING BROKEN, RISE UP AND BUILD ANEW.”

    I didn’t get this?

    • Ninmesara says:

      “Inspite of being broken…”, I suppose. It’s from a poem by Kipling.

      • gradus says:

        it’s a double pun, actually, on Kipling and “the itsy bitsy spider”

        It’s a pretty good joke, actually.

        • Ninmesara says:

          Oh, cool, I didn’t know the rhyme

        • Anonymous Singer says:

          cf. https://youtube.com/watch?v=Xn4xmAwkcFs

          The Eensie-Weensie Spider
          by Tom Smith & Bob Blue

          to the time of “Mary Ellen Carter”
          by Stan Rogers

          The eensie-weensie spider went up the water spout
          Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
          Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
          And the eensie-weensie spider climbed again
          She wouldn’t let the elements distract her from her goal
          The purpose of her struggle was imbedded in her soul;
          Now see the sun shine down on beasts, on women and on men
          And see that eenie-weensie spider rise again!

          Rise again! Rise again!
          She will not let misfortune keep her
          From doing what she can.
          So whether your legs number two, or four or eight or ten
          Be like that eensie-weensie spider,
          Rise again!

          This eensie-weensie metaphor’s a lesson to us all
          We cannot be defeated if we rise each time we fall
          And if you think this story’s one you learned too long ago
          Then think about some other ones you know:
          You know the myth of Sisyphus, and you know Jack and Jill
          It’s such a potent image, going up and down a hill.
          So every time you fall,or lose a lover or a friend
          Be like that eensie-weensie spider,
          Rise again!

          Rise again! Rise again!
          She will not let misfortune keep her
          From doing what she can.
          So whether your legs number two, or four or eight or ten
          Be like that eensie-weensie spider,
          Rise again!

          Perhaps you think this allegory goes a bit too far
          Climbing up a pipe is not like reaching for a star
          But whether it’s a water spout or mountain that you climb
          You’ve come this far. Indulge me one more time,
          It could be said that each of us climbs up a water spout
          The downward pull of gravity’s not what it’s all about
          The upward pull of hope is what will save us in the end
          Be like that eensie-weensie spider
          Rise again!

          Rise again! Rise again!
          Never let misfortune keep you
          From doing what you can,
          And whether your legs number two
          Or four or eight or ten
          Be like that eensie-weensie spider,
          Rise again!

    • Amelia Kelly says:

      It’s a weak pun on a line from “The Hymn of Breaking Strain”, which was referenced in an earlier chapter.

  19. benzrf says:

    >Her father said nothing when she came unannounced, striking the table deep in her father’s bunker in the form of a lightning bolt, just smiled, and said she was welcome, and that he hoped this meant she would be visiting more often.

    >Her father said nothing
    >and said she was welcome

    I think this is probably a mistake

    • Simurgh says:

      I think it should be read to mean that he said nothing about her presence being unnanounced or her long absence etc., and just said what is mentioned.

  20. Diadem says:

    After reading this question, I’m stuck with just one question.

    Did Uriel and Soho just order pizza, or did they also manage to get it delivered?

    • B_Epstein says:

      Pizza comes from P-Z-Z. Paz is gold, and one way to understand “paziz” is rushed, hurried. Piza is the place where an equal speed of objects with different masses was famously measured.

      Thus, pizza is something you pay for and is rushed to you, no matter how light or heavy, no matter how much pizzazz and topping do you add. It was quite easy for them to ensure proper delivery.

  21. Ron says:

    Great chapter!

  22. Immanentizing Eschatons says:

    Incredibly pedantic and pointless objection: I actually really doubt an anglerfish has the bite force to take off someone’s hand.

    • Unaussprechlichen says:

      It wouldn’t be pleasant though.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bP79-lPd0w (cw: painful animal bite, animal being harmed)

    • Decius says:

      Assuming it cut connective soft tissue and not bone, it takes very little force to dismember. Moray eels have been documented to take fingers, and cutting the skin and tendons either at the wrist or through the palm seems to a non-anatomist like me to be within the capability of anything that needs teeth as large as an anglerfish’s.

      • Michael Vassar says:

        Actually, this was the first event in Unsong that really broke suspension of disbelief for me. Anglerfish teeth are long and thin, clearly appropriate for stabbing or for testing fish, but not at all appropriate for cutting.

    • David Marjanović says:

      I doubt anglerfish of unusual size exist…

  23. nipi says:

    Ive been thinking. If anyone has any idea how to manage Sarah then its probably Sohu. I mean she has years of experience with Uriel.

  24. Grort says:

    Theory: the Other King IS the Comet King. Turned evil.

    Evidence: way back when, a rabbi was turned evil by the fall of a bird, and became known as the Other One.
    Now, the Comet King was turned evil by the death of Robin, and is known as the Other King.
    It’s that “patterns repeating” thing.

    This also satisfies CEO guy’s theory about the Comet King not being dead.

    It does not seem to satisfy the question of who Captain Nemo is — there aren’t all that many people to be in this story — but I guess he could just be a random NPC.

    • Decius says:

      Captain Nemo was Jules Verne’s metaphor for scientific understanding setting the protagonists free from the restrictions of the society they left, and to point out those restrictions to the character and audience

      Did Nemo become embodied with the angels when the mathematical foundation of the eart

    • Name says:

      The only problem with this theory is that the other king appeared first, and Jalapeno was busy growing up as fast as possible to confront him, which he also did, multiple times.

      So I propose an amendment to this theory: the other king is the comet king living backwards in time. Like, there’d be some event that entirely strips him of compassion and humanity and he starts living backwards down until the point where Uriel’s machinery breaks, which turns him into a metaphor, obviously.

    • nipi says:

      I think they are two different people. Possibly, some time during their fight in the skies they had a conversation and the Other King was able to shake the Comet Kings faith in God even further. As for the Comet kings corpse – maybe there is a word for creating one.

      • Ninmesara says:

        There is this theory about a golem, but I don’t know if it is true – golems don’t create the most convincing corpses after all.

    • K25fF says:

      “I THINK IT IS VERY SURPRISING THAT THE MOST DIRE THREAT TO THE WORLD IS PROPHESIED ALSO TO BE ITS REDEEMER. TAKEN TOGETHER WITH ISAIAH 53:12 STATING THAT THE MESSIAH WILL BE NUMBERED AMONG THE GREAT TRANSGRESSORS, IT PRESENTS A VERY UNUSUAL VIEW OF SIN AND REDEMPTION.”
      -Uriel, Chapter 13

  25. jms says:

    Huh. Unsong’s never actually made me feel sad before. I mean, it’s been a good read and all that, but not particularly emotional – then as soon as I read “But he didn’t die” I just welled up idiotically. Then again, basically anything involving fathers dying has been doing that to me for the past month. And for some reason there’s one around every corner.

  26. The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

    Does anyone else think Caelius is being set up to do something villainous?

    “Nathanda would always want to negotiate, and Caelius would always want to start some complicated plot, and Jinxiang would always want to fight, and I was too little to even say anything”

    Four children. Sohu is clearly the one who does not know how to ask. Nathanda, the eldest, the displomat, is probably the wise child. Jinxiang is the straightforward one… the simple child? Which leaves Caelius, the plotter, as the wicked child.

    The only other significant fact we know about Caelius was that he was happy to propose lobotomizing a sentient being.

    • The coment king says:

      I’d go with Sohu as simple, and Jinxiang as the one who does not know how to ask. She just tells people what to do.

    • anon says:

      What archetypes are you referencing here, and why do they apply?

      • R Flaum says:

        The four children of the Passover seder.

        • anon says:

          Hmm. Isn’t that a bit of a stretch?

          • The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

            This is Unsong we are talking about here 🙂

            The narrative has already brought up the four children explicitly (chapter 17: “Open the Haggadah and find the entry about the Wicked Child, who says that these rituals and customs do not apply to him! “), so it’s clearly in the authors’ / readers’ consciousness.

            Observe that in the Haggadah, the children are listed in the order Wise, Wicked, Simple, Does Not Know How to Ask. Assuming my associations are correct, this is the same order that Nathanda, Caelius, Jinxiang, and Sohu are listed.

            I do not think it is a coincidence.

          • R Flaum says:

            I don’t really see how you get “does not know how to ask” from Sohu.

          • R Flaum says:

            Oh, wait, you mean because she doesn’t respond when TCK asks what he should do?

  27. The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

    Yeah, exactly. I’m googling this now and seeing that there are various interpretations, but the gloss I learned as a kid was that the one who does not know how to ask was the baby of the family, too young to be able to articulate his thoughts. That matches up well with “and I was too little to even say anything.”

    • The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

      Oops, meant to post this in response to R Flaum in the thread above, and it’s not letting me edit it 🙁

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