aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 48: Bring Me My Chariot Of Fire

Rage in favor of the proposition that the machine is somehow important in a way that could be uncovered through dispassionate analysis.
Steven Kaas

Morning, May 14, 2017
Caribbean Sea


Unfurling four of its seven sails , the world’s fastest ship shot out of the Panama Canal. It rocketed through the Caribbean and wove in and out of the Cayman Islands. It somehow skipped Cuba – the space that Not A Metaphor sailed through with its many-colored sails open wasn’t quite the same as the normal ocean – and nearly crashed into the Bahamas before executing a sudden turn that knocked everyone against the port railing. Four hours after the ship left the Gatun Locks, Amoxiel spotted the Florida coast.

The launch was at noon. There would be no more launches for weeks – longer than John would hang on. They would make it to Cape Canaveral by noon, or their friend’s soul was toast.

James paced back and forth on the deck, his responsibilities lightened by the rediscovery of the ship’s autopilot – if that was what you wanted to call the intelligence that animated the entire vessel like a golem. He was on the foredeck, tan in the Caribbean sun, letting the ship itself handle the steering.

Ana and Simeon were in lounge chairs side by side to starboard.

“I should have known you’d be in favor of this,” Ana said.

“Of saving a friend from eternal suffering?” asked Simeon. “You bet.”

It was a vicious cycle. Simeon was old, he’d been hurt in the scuffle with the Drug Lord, and he’d been seizing pretty bad during the worst parts of the the Panama crossing. For a while they hadn’t been sure he would make it. Ana, wracked with guilt about verbally abusing him, had been by his side all through the Gulf Coast, bringing him food from the galley and keeping him company. But being Ana, it was impossible for her not to start talking politics, and soon she was abusing him more than ever – a situation that seemed to keep the old man relatively entertained.

“It’s the final insult,” Ana said, “in which divine justice is perverted the same way the human justice of the state already has been. Poor person steals some bread? Eternity in Hell. Rich person steals the wealth of an entire state? Not only do the courts do nothing, but he can buy a ticket on Celestial Virgin and his soul ends up squeaky clean in the World To Come.”

“Does anyone deserve eternal suffering?”


“Then surely it’s more just for a few people to be able to avoid it, than for everyone alike to suffer punishment undeserved.”

“But just the rich?”

“Someone has to buy the rocket fuel.”

“Why doesn’t the government pay? Why isn’t it subsidized?”

“Ten million per citizen? Why, to save the entire population of America that’s only, ah, two quadrillion dollars, about a thousand times the gross national product.”

“Then at least save some!”

“Exactly my point. We can only save some. Instead of choosing those some from a lottery or something, we choose them by wealth. It beats the lottery method because it makes the program self-financing.”

“So just let things be, and make no attempt at eve…”

Satan tempted Eve. Noah built an ark.”


He smiled.

“I just think…you can’t be happy with this situation, can you?”

Simeon furrowed his brow. “Happy? No. But what can you do? And it’s not just a rhetorical question. I can do quite a lot. I can create a successful company that helps discover new Names. I can donate some money to causes that deserve it. I can be nice to the people I meet. Once I’m doing all that, there’s no point in dedicating a lobe of my brain to being outraged at the injustices of the world. I do what I can, and then stop caring. Even the Comet King only besieged Hell until the point when he realized it was a lost cause. Then he gave up. You care too much and it drives you crazy.”

“Then maybe being crazy is the right thing to do. So far all I see from your side is a lot of sanity and poor people left to burn.”

“Two hundred years ago, this was about people starving to death in the streets, or dying of smallpox. We solved those problems not by destroying the system, but by milking the system so single-mindedly that eventually we got rich enough to buy the problems off. If we defeat Hell, it’ll be because we developed better weapons. And if we develop better weapons, it’ll be because of places like Countenance. And in order to get places like Countenance, you need money, and incentives to get it, and then there you are at Celestial Virgin.”

“So just let sin and greed continue uninhibited, and eventually someone will have stolen enough to make things better? Just protect the system, no matter how many people it throws into the flames, because of the promise of a smallpox cure somewhere at the end?”

“And what’s your position? Burn down everything that isn’t perfect? I have bad news for your about mortal institutions, dear. What if you go too far? You think eliminating people like me will build the perfect government? What if you overcompensate and build anarchy?”

Noah built an arky. Satan tempted Eve. And me? I’m with the Unitarians: ‘The soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din / List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within / ‘They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.””

“There’s more than one way to compromise with sin,” said Simeon. “The first way is where you accept a little bit of evil for what you think is a greater good. But the second way is where you do anything less than what’s most effective. If I shut down Virgin because I was mad at it, well, then maybe I’d feel better about myself. And a few hundred people who would otherwise go to Heaven would end up in Hell and burn forever, thanks to me. How is that not compromising with sin? The compromises I’ve made, I’ve made on my own terms, and I’m happy with them.”

“If you were happy, you wouldn’t have paid a couple million dollars to go yell at God.”

Simeon tried to bring himself up to a sitting position, but ended up putting weight upon his injured leg. Groaning, he lay back down.

“I’m sorry,” Ana said. “I crossed a line. This is stupid. I keep saying mean things to you and then feeling bad and trying to make it up by talking to you more and then saying mean things. I should go.”

“It’s fine,” said Simeon. “I’m a hard man to offend.”

“No, really. I should go and jump off the side of the ship now.”

“Wait,” said Simeon. “You want to know a secret?”

“I’ve never said no to that question and I’m not starting now.”

Simeon smiled. “I don’t think this boat will catch God, and I don’t really care. I’m after bigger quarry.”

“Bigger than God?”

“Look, Ana. Fifteen years ago the Comet King has a mental breakdown after the death of his wife. Then a year later, he dies at Never Summer in a battle in a cloud, defeated by a relative nobody. You don’t find anything about this weird?”

“People love conspiracy theories,” Ana said. “But they found his body, and besides, the Comet King isn’t the sort to retire and go farm yams somewhere.”

“People do love conspiracy theories,” said Simeon, “and rich people get a chance to indulge in them. My hobby for the past few years has been tracking the Comet King. And no, I didn’t find any smoking guns, but – you know our man John? We only know two things about him. He’s a priest. And he’s an old friend of the Captain’s. Well, I collect old photographs from Royal Colorado, and the man’s a dead ringer for the Comet King’s right-hand man, Father John Ellis. So I started reading about this ship. This mysterious Captain Nemo shows up one day, shrouds himself in mystery, but has intimate knowledge of the Comet King’s yacht. And he’s a friend of John Ellis’s. And he’s got a certain…well, everyone obeys him without question. So what am I to think?”

A chill went down Ana’s spine. She had only been very young when the Comet King died, but even she could remember the gravity of the moment. He had been someone impossible, something out of legend, a different sort of person entirely. Then he was gone. If he were still alive… “The Captain looks nothing like the Comet King,” she said. “I’ve seen pictures. The Captain is big. The Comet King is rail-thin. And there was the body.”

“You think people like that can’t change bodies as easily as we change clothes?” said Simeon. “Heck, if I wanted to pull the same thing Jalaketu did, I’d bribe the Lady into making a golem that looked just like me, kill off the golem, bury the body, then hit the donuts until I wasn’t so thin anymore. Whatever I couldn’t disguise, I’d hide. They say the Comet King had weird eyes, like the night sky. Why doesn’t Captain Nemo take off his sunglasses?”

“Holy euphemism,” said Ana.

“I didn’t buy a berth on this boat to hunt down God, I got on here to hunt down the Captain. The man’s a complete black box, and only the people lucky enough to end up on the Not A Metaphor get a chance of seeing him. I’ve been watching him, trying to figure out what his angle is. But I’ve got nothing. That’s why I’m telling you this. You’re one of the crew. You can talk to people. Figure out what they know. They’ve been hanging out with him for years. They must have picked up on something.”

“What do I do? Just ask James, say ‘Hey, did the Captain ever mention anything about being the Comet King?'”

“Maybe not. Maybe James is in on it. And if the Comet King is hiding, probably bad things happen to anyone who makes too much noise about trying to find him. Something subtle. Like ‘Oh, I’ve been working here so long, and I barely get a glimpse of the Captain. What’s with that guy?’ See what he knows.”

“Okay but…like you said, if he doesn’t want to be found, it might not be such a good idea to find him.”

“Well,” said Simeon, “yes. That is the issue. Maybe I’m a little bit crazy too, in the way I mentioned to you earlier. I don’t have a great plan. This is pretty much how I ran Gogmagog – start the first step, hit the ground running, and try to figure out the second step on the way. But I’ve already spend a year and a half looking through all the sources I could – once I get interested in something, I stay interested – and the thought of knowing where the Comet King was and just sort of sitting on the knowledge – well, that would have driven me off the wall. I don’t know what Erin and the rest hope to get from meeting God. They already know He’s not big on answering prayers except on His own terms. Well, I don’t know what I expect from meeting the Comet King. The best I can say is I’m no stupider than they are. Just differently stupid.”


They sat on the ship, a mile or so offshore. There had been a burst of light, a roar. And a little spark buoyed upon a sea of smoke shot up at Heaven.

John was on that spark. They’d arrived just in time. His breathing was getting shallow, and he didn’t seem like he had much time left. And it had been only fifteen minutes to launch, and they’d had to pay extra to delay the countdown a few minutes to get the old priest on board. But the deed had been done, and the dying body of the old man was dutifully loaded on board the tiny capsule and flung into the noonday sun.

They’d stayed on land just long enough to place a call to one of James’ contacts in New York, telling them to advertise as quickly as possible for a replacement priest and a replacement placebomancer. The plan was to speed to New York City just long enough to get two new crew aboard the ship, then head to Fire Island where the divine boat of Metatron, emanation of God, was due to appear at sunset. The contact had demanded an outrageous price, then said he would work something out. With no time to lose, they’d gotten back on the yacht and headed out.

The red sail fluttered in the wind, Ana kept the orange going, Tomas still sang to the green, and Amoxiel stayed in back with the purple. He was running low on holy water, but there would be potables enough once they reached New York. The priestly and placebomantic sails hung limp in mourning for their lost keepers, and the black sail as always stood alone and cryptic on the aft.

“I’m not sure what the proper etiquette is,” Tomas told Ana. They were standing together on the port deck, watching the Virgin rocket disappear into the evening sky. “I feel like I should say something, but it’s not a funeral. Nobody’s dead yet.”

“Tell me about John,” said Ana. “How did you meet?”

“It was about three months after we took Not A Metaphor,” Tomas told her. “In those days she was still All Your Heart. We only had four sails working then – just like now – and the Captain told us we needed a priest. When we were in Vancouver on a chase he went ashore and called up a friend who he said would meet us next time we got to San Francisco. A week later we sailed down California and John was waiting for us. A good man. Always did his share. I’m Catholic myself, and he always took time to listen to my confession. Though I get the impression he was kind of an unorthodox sort of priest.”

“And then, when did you meet the Captain?”

“Him? That was in Puerto Penasco that first night. The Other King had invaded the whole Southwest and just reached the Sea of Cortez. I was tending my family’s bar, and there he was, drunk as a skunk, saying he’d been on the Not A Metaphor during its maiden voyage and he was going to help us steal the ship. James was an officer, and he and his men were interested, and the rest is history. Things were bad in those days; we were willing to take any way out.”

“What did he do before? On the ship? Did he know the Comet King?”

“I think he was the captain, then, just like now. He never mentions the Comet King, but it would have been pretty hard to spend a month on a ship this small without seeing him.”

“Did he captain other ships before he got this one?”

The little spark finally faded from view.

“Ana, the Captain’s a very private man. What he wants us to know, he tells us. He’s been good to us, and we give him back as good as we get by not prying into his secrets. I assume the Comet King wouldn’t have hired him if he didn’t have some experience. But what that is, he hasn’t said and I haven’t asked. I would recommend you do the same.”

“Just curious,” Ana protested feebly.

“You know the saying about curiosity.”

“Tomas?” A sudden thought, more urgent. “If he was on the boat, before, he must have been there when the Comet King met Metatron.”

“Ana.” Tomas’ voice wasn’t angry, but it was stern.

“The voice of God! He must know what he said! Maybe even knows the Explicit Name!”


The Not A Metaphor sailed north.


The ship had a Medical Officer, tasked with keeping the passengers alive until they reached their destination. Sometimes his expertise was needed for more prosaic reasons.

“One of the old guys is delirious,” the Commander told him. “Won’t stay in his seat, keeps raving about stuff. I don’t want him to get up and get confused by the zero-g and hit his head on something. You think he’s safe to tranquilize?”

The Medical Officer picked up a syringe and walked into the cabin. Wasn’t too hard to tell who the Commander was talking about. A dozen old codgers strapped quietly into their seats. And one guy practically flailing. Delirium, all right.

“Listen,” the old man was saying. “The prophecy said that they would drive him to the priest. Drove, that was the word it used. Not the Dividend Monks’ prophecy. The other one. The long one. They drove the comet to the priest, but the priest would come up dry. And on that day, the righteous grown children would perish.”

“Hold on,” said the Medical Officer. “It’s going to be okay.” He checked breathing, respiration. A little tranquilizer wouldn’t hurt. He took hold of the old man’s arm and injected the contents of the syringe.

“I’m the priest,” said the old man. “It was talking about me. And today I’ve come up dry. I’ve failed. You have to warn the Cometspawn. You hear me? Warn the Cometspawn.” Then he went quiet. The Medical Officer watched for a few minutes until he was sure he was sound asleep.

“All clear,” he told the Commander, stepping back into the cockpit. Ahead of them, the crack in the sky came ever closer.

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134 Responses to Chapter 48: Bring Me My Chariot Of Fire

  1. fsdadf says:

    And on that day, the righteous grown children would perish.

    Does this mean Sohu is safe?
    (I guess the others die today, any way. But that wasn’t too unpredictable – they had to die in-story and there’s only a day or two of in-story time left).

    • Allan53 says:

      What makes you say that (the limited time left bit)?

      • Ninmesara says:

        People have noticed that May 14th 2017 falls on a Sunday in real life, and the story seemed like it would be over a few days after it stared, and someone said that it would make sense for the story to end on the same day the last chapter would be published. This would also be 72 weeks after the first chapter, and the number 72 is kabbalistically important. This means the story will probably end on May 14th 2017.

        It makes some sense, but Scott will have to cram a lot of action (and history, in the case of the other threads) in this last day, so I’m not sure these predictions are right.

        • Quixote says:

          I’m going to predict the story is not done done by that point, contingent on upcoming chapter length not being greater than 15% above prior chapter lengths.

          • Adam says:

            I tried to read UNSONG before, when a dear friend introduced it to me, but I could only get into it after he emailed me again, out of the blue, while I was studying Arabic in Morocco. The day I leave Morocco is May 14. TINACBNIAC

    • nipi says:

      Depends. Has Uriel been making incremental age adjustments to Sohu as he suggested or not? Did Sohu refuse the treatment after Uriel burned his reserves?

  2. Uh Oh says:

    A replacement placebomancer *in New York*? That can’t be good…

    • fsdadf says:

      Hopefully it’ll wind up being Mark, not Dylan. Actually, this explains why Dylan rescued Mark (and offered to put him on a ship), if he was planning to sell his services.

    • Deiseach says:

      telling them to advertise as quickly as possible for a replacement priest and a replacement placebomancer

      Good to see I wasn’t the only one who read that and went “Oh crap” 🙂

      Though Mark is a ritual magician; if Dylan himself doesn’t take the job, he’ll probably send one of his own placebomancers. Dylan is ambitious and vain enough to take the job, but he also has kept his skin whole all this time by sending other lambs to the slaughter in his place, so I imagine he’ll send a stooge that he’s sure he can control. I don’t think he’d trust Mark either to leave him on the ship, or leave him behind with the others if Dylan got onto the ship.

      • fsdadf says:

        Or maybe he’ll just see sending Mark off to the ship as an easy way to get rid of Mark while making a bit of quick cash. He doesn’t seem to value Kabbalistic knowledge, so he probably regards the ship’s voyage as a pointless distraction he can use for that.

        • nipi says:

          If Dylan is involved he would probably try to “liberate” the ship from its “greed driven” crew.

        • Deiseach says:

          Dylan wants to see everything burn. A ship full of millionaires and billionaires? At least, a ship known for charging huge sums such that only millionaires/billionaires can charter it – plus it seeks out Metatron, the Voice of God – this is the kind of plum target Dylan can not resist trying to hit.

          Working out some kind of linguistic workaround to get a placebomancer aboard and then blow everything and everyone on it to kingdom come whilst still staying on the right side of the Narrative tropes so he can continue getting Reality to work out in his favour is exactly the kind of challenge Dylan is too big-headed to resist. I could see him using the twisty oath (as everyone noted, he managed to re-word it so that IF Mark refuses to join him, Dylan is NOT obligated to send him to Europe) to set Mark up, but Mark is primarily a Ritualist, not a placebomancer, so would Dylan use him?

          • nipi says:

            Does it matter that Mark isnt considered a placebomancer (Im not even sure if thats true.)? I see placebomancy as more of a theory how magic works. If a mage believes it or not is irrelevant as he or she is still invoking it.

            The whole world probably runs on placebomancy – it certainly would explaine why angles cant understand Arameic. Kabbalah probably works so well because it was the first “magic” to work and become public knowledge so the world was further convinced it should work and work well.

            And I think Thamiel is a far better placebomancer than Dylan. You are all destined for hell because I convinced you of it and all of you convinced the world.

    • Ninmesara says:

      If Dylan is the contact, then he has already freed Mark (he freed Mark the dawn of May 13th), so Mark’s rescue is unrelated to this request. The placebomancer they’re referring to is probably Mark in any case.

      On the other hand, what if their contact is Malia who has agreed to supply an imprisoned placebomancer (the last of the Ritual board magicians)? If so, then she might be unable to deliver on her promise. If she is in fact able to deliver on that promise (for example, because such placebomancer tried to murder her while using an invisible name which doesn’t work on her), then she might be present at the exchange and recognize Ana. This would be a good way of going back to Malia (and to Unsong, of which he have heard preciously little).

  3. fsdadf says:

    Unless it’s supposed to be read Borat-style: It was impossible… NOT!

  4. Rachael says:

    Typo: “then for everyone alike” -> “than for everyone alike”

    • Angstrom says:

      also, not sure if this is a typo, but in the final section “Commander” and “Pilot” seem to refer to the same person and I’m not sure if they should be the same word or not.

    • neptunepink says:

      “I have bad news for your about mortal institutions”

    • scherzando says:

      Not a typo, but possibly an error – shouldn’t everyone be knocked against the starboard railing when Not A Metaphor turns? It’s been headed northeast, and turns northwest – that is, towards its left (port) side. And the occupants of a turning vehicle tend to be thrown to the outside of the curve – here, the right (starboard) side of the ship.

      Or maybe I’m confused about the navigation and/or the physics.

      • Eric says:

        The list of a sailboat depends on the direction of the wind, but since the sails are driven by non-air wind this may have its own set of (meta)physics. Generally though, when sailing, the boat will list in the direction of the turn, so during a port turn the port rail will be lower. This is unless the turn takes the bow across the wind, then there is a slight centrifugal force at the beginning of the turn, then the sails stall as they cross the wind, then fill on the other tack and the boat lists the opposite way from prior to the turn.
        Or if we treat it as a power boat, to turn port, you push the tiller starboard, swinging the stern to the outside of the turn, and making a list to port. All of this has to do with the fact that water does not give the kind of traction that we expect from tires on pavement.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not a typo either, but:

      The ship had a Medical Officer

      suggests that this fragment happens on the Not A Metaphor, not on the Celestial Virgin rocket. I had to re-read it a few times to realise ‘the ship’ means spaceship.

    • R Flaum says:

      In the first sentence of the story, there’s an extraneous space immediately before the comma.

  5. Angstrom says:

    We have three known prophecies, now.

    One is from the abbot of the Dividend Monks, and says simply that “All the descendants of the Comet King … would die screaming in horror and agony, cursing their father’s name.”

    Another is the one in the Taos House Records, volume 112, the Dividend Monks’ oracular pronouncement on who the [Other] King was and where he’d come from, which Jinxiang searched so hard for. But according to Chapter 30, the oracular pronouncement was simply “How is Rhode Island like a falling bird?” – or at least, that was the monks’ answer to Ellis – and although I want to believe there’s more to it, it seems most likely that the rest of the small blue book is just other unrelated prophecies for other unrelated supplicants.

    And then there’s this. Which is explicitly not the Dividend Monks’ prophecy, which is longer rather than a single sentence, and contains mutterings about comets and priests and driving. I have no idea what to make of it. Is it supposed to be independent of the other two? (I really /want/ it to be an extension or supplemental interpretation for the Rhode Island prophecy, considering we’ve already spilled so much of Jinxiang’s time and exposition on it, but I can’t see how to make it work.) Do we have any instance of a “they” specifically /driving/ any kind of comet towards Father Ellis? Is the crack somehow an embodiment of a comet, and so Celestial Virgin is the “they”?

    So many questions.

    • fsdadf says:

      I read it to be the detailed version of the first prophecy, about TCK’s children.
      I also think there’s more to the TOK prophecy – all we know is that Jinxiang said the riddle is related, not that it’s the whole prophecy (and at the time she still didn’t fully trust Aaron, so she probably wouldn’t tell him everything).

    • stavro375 says:

      “The prophecy said that they would drive him to the priest. Drove, that was the word it used. Not the Dividend Monks’ prophecy. The other one. The long one. They drove the comet to the priest, but the priest would come up dry. And on that day, the righteous grown children would perish.”

      Remember the interlude on Miss American Pie?

      Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
      Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye
      Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
      This’ll be the day that I die

    • JJR says:

      I thought it was American Pie.

      Just… don’t ask why, cause I’m not sure.

    • Gonzalez says:

      How *is* Rhode Island like a falling bird?

    • Deiseach says:

      “How is Rhode Island like a falling bird?”

      All I’ve got there is that Rhode Island Reds are a breed of hen, and domesticated chickens can fly but not very well (so that would be a ‘falling’ bird if you expected them to fly long distances/from a height – don’t throw chickens off anywhere high!) but after that, I’m stumped.

    • linkhyrule5 says:

      Imagine this: the Other King comes to Cheyenne mountain, and somehow breaks through. The cometspawn (bar Sohu) die in fire (the taste of whiskey) and lightning (雷 rai), and in their last instants the Other King, being the hammy sort of villain, says, oh, something like this:

      “Curse only your father, for leaving this upon you.”

      What do the Cometspawn say, defiant to the end?

      “We will curse no one.”

      • Marvy says:

        That is entirely too clever. Besides, I don’t Believe Simeon’s theory. I agree he’s definitely on to something. But I don’t think he’s quite right. I have no idea how such a theory could be partly wrong though. I’m confused.

  6. Ninmesara says:

    saying he’d been on the Not A Metaphor during its maiden voyage and he was going to help us steal the ship.

    Upon rereading the chapter, I don’t think he ever said he was on the ship. Sure he knew how it worked, but having been on the ship shifts my prior in the direction of him being the Comet King.

    On the other hand, the conspiracy theory that he is in fact the Comet King doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why would he fake his own death? Is he just sick of fighting and wants to retire? At the cost of thousands of lives only he can protect? And why is The Other King described as a relative nobody? He can defeat the 4 Cometspawn alone! That seems pretty powerful to me, but somehow I might be misjudging their power level.

    Also, if he has crossed the Panama Canal before he knows what will happen to them based on their names.

    In particular, he knows that Lin will turn into nil. And yet he goes forward to save the priest. Is this some kind of utilitarian calculus between 1 oblivion vs 1 eternity in Hell? We know the author is interested in this trade-off. What would be the probability of Father Ellis going to Hell? This seems relevant to the calculus. Or is he sacrificing a crew member to save a friend?

    He also knows he will become nonsense (the reverse of Jalaketu is Utekalaj, which I guess doesn’t mean anything). In fact he seems to become an Omen, which is the opposite of Nemo. In any case, he wouldn’t be very useful in steering the ship. Is he counting on Ana to do it? He knows she will survive unchanged, but trusting her to steer the ship, even with the autopilot on is quite a stretch… And if it is no secret that he has been on board of the ship, he should have told Ana what to do instead of requiring her to guess on the spot: “Ana, crossing the Canal will reverse our names, and we’ll need you to pilot the boat until after the singularity. Also, the boat is a Golem and there is a Chance you will have an autopilot to help you if you don’t, this is what you should do…”

  7. hoho says:

    Is the prophesy American Pie? If so the female cometspawns will be fine.

    • Angstrom says:



    • Quixote says:

      I am missing this one.

    • Angstrom says:

      My, my
      Miss American Pie
      Drove my Chevy (Shavit is Hebrew for “comet”) to the levee (Levi is the tribe of secondary priests, below Cohen)
      but the levee was dry
      And good (righteous) ol’ (grown) boys (children), was drinking whiskey and rye
      Singing this will be the day that I die

      I don’t buy that “boys” spares the female Cometspawn.

      • Aran says:

        Note that there’s also the part where they literally drove a Chevy Nova to the Dillon Reservoir at Silverthorne in order to set the holy-water ambush for Thamiel. Though fortunately, of course, that reservoir wasn’t dry.

      • Ninmesara says:

        Birds flew off with a fallout shelter
        Eight miles high and falling fast

        TOK is a fallen bird. The Cometspawn live in a fallout shelter which is also a mountain. We already know that TOK can crack mountains. Maybe he can lift them up in the air and drop them? So I guess we get TOK blowing up Cheyenne mountain and flying away, dragging Aaron and Sarah (she’s easy to drag because she’s unconscious) while the grown Cometspawn fall to their deaths (the one that is not grown up is imortal, and we already know she can teleport or something). The others could use the ascending name, but it doesn’t help when a ceiling is also falling on top of tou.

        • Setrak says:

          Eight Miles high and falling fast is a reference to when TCK died in his battle in the clouds and fell.
          The bird’s flying off with the fallout shelter is the Comrtspaen claiming Cheyenne as their own.

          • Ninmesara says:

            That’s a possibility, but the bird reference would make more senseif ot were the Comet King, right? He has been described as a fallen bird.

      • 75th says:

        I think we need to make an effort to match the entire plot, from Apollo 8 to the latest point in the narrative, to the entire lyrics from American Pie. And figure out which other correspondences from the Miss American Pie interlude should be modified the same way you changed “shevet” to “shavit”.

        • Rand says:

          Was thinking the exact same thing.

          Important question: Who is the Jester?

          First thought is Dylan Alvarez. (We’ll presumably know soon if he boards the NoMe.) Did he steal a coat from James Dean? Does a placebomancers voice come from you and me?

          • Peter says:

            Of course, that would imply that American Pie can have about as many meanings as the Torah has in-universe; that the mainstream “history of rock and roll” interpretation (with Jester = Bob Dylan – who apparently cited William Blake as an influence) can co-exist and interact with Aaron’s interpretation and the prophecy interpretation and possibly a few others beside.

            Let’s see: Alvarez is certainly a rebel, whether or not his cause counts as a cause is questionable, I could see him wearing a James Dean jacket if it wasn’t red. Possibly Alvarez borrowed a different coat than the one Bob Dylan borrowed. Alvarez’s triumph over the board of ritual magicians could be construed as “stealing a crown”, and he gets off scot-free – except the court does return a verdict, it just records it on the wrong man. If our metaphors are allowed to be loose enough, “judicial confusion” could be what it’s all driving at. Does Alvarez have Messianic pretensions, even metaphorically – if so, that let’s him not only steal a crown but steal a thorny crown.

            So, I think a “well spotted” is in order.

          • JB says:

            If placebomancy works on expectations, that could be considered as their “voice”/power coming from “you and me”/some kind of aggregation of people’s expectations.

        • Eric says:

          It’s small, but one of the implications Aaron doesn’t deal with is that “February made me shiver”. This could be read to predict the death of UNSONG!Peter Singer in February 1974. (American Pie came out in ’72)

  8. Aran says:

    and make no attempt at eve…”

    “Satan tempted Eve. Noah built an ark.”


    I can’t even imagine how you’re going to work the inevitable “Satan-built-an-ark” pun in, but it has to come just for the sake of symmetry, doesn’t it?

    (Except they’re out of the Canal now, of course.)

  9. Aran says:

    a replacement priest and a replacement placebomancer.

    Hm… what are the odds that Dylan, Erica and Mark are going to board NAM in New York?

  10. Aran says:

    Oh hey:

    Bring Me My Chariot Of Fire

    John’s surname is Ellis, which is a derivative of Elijah. TNIAC.

  11. Travis says:

    So when they went through the canal, people and some of the ship’s functionality turned into nonsense and then turned back after they left the canal.

    Nemo turned into an omen, and then back to nemo when they left.

    But the ship’s autopilot turned on… and *stayed* on, even after they left the canal?

    What’s up with this? Am I misunderstanding the canal somehow?

    • Miyto says:

      You are not misunderstanding the canal.
      However you are misunderstanding the events that occurred during the two trips through the canal.
      During the first trip (that we did not see) through the canal, someone changed the settings on the autopilot while traversing it. Presumably this change only made sense when reversed and scrambled the autopilot upon returning to normal parts of the world.
      During the return trip, the autopilot started working with the help of god in dog form as they passed the center of the canal. The changed settings back to something that made sense just after passing the center of the canal, perhaps all that dog did was undo any alterations that were done to the autopilot during the first trip. The rest of the crew had been changed by entering the canal and began to change back as they passed the center, the effect was like a gradient for them. The autopilot golem had it happen instantly due to divine intervention.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Someone has said that since the whole business with Sohu’s father, any unnamed male character should be assumed to be the Comet King until proven otherwise.

  12. Quixote says:

    I liked this chapter.

    As a reminder to other readers, vote for this on

    It helps bring glory to the author and higher rankings help other folks find this story.

  13. R Flaum says:

    Simeon’s argument does sort of ignore economies of scale. If the government were providing Crack trips for everybody, they might be able to get it done for a mere few hundred times GNP.

    • Not sure that works for this – The main cost of rocket launches is rocket fuel (in our world – it may be different in unsongverse, which also involves motive names). If you have massive use of a scarce resource, its cost per unit goes up, not down.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Also, economies of scale for (actual) rockets are usually obtained by increasing the distance flown after getting out of the gravity well, not by increasing the mass of the payload at that time (which is quite costly). You win when you can launch a bunch of cheap things into orbit and then glue them together for a long flight, which doesn’t seem convenient here.

        • AnthonyC says:

          Why are they using rockets anyway? I wonder if you could build a circle if beanie babies near the crack. Or several different ones, with matching ones spread out across Earth. As i recall it was TCK that wormed out hi ow to build rockets post-Apollo. I doubt he’d object, especially if he is also the captain.

          • Peter says:

            I think the Vanishing Name is fairly new (a month or two old), and the trick with the Beanie Babies had been puzzled out by the Cometspawn (possibly the best kabbalists on the planet, with the possible exception of Sarah or ToK or Uriel or a few others who aren’t likely to be helpful), so not many people will know it. Certainly Aaron didn’t know about the Beanie Baby trick.

            Also – I’m not sure how being right next to a crack in the sky – or being down on Terra Firma – affects how situations are kabbalistically complementary, but I wouldn’t rely on it having no effect.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            As Peter says, I imagine the crack might screw up the functioning of the name, but if you wanted a place of maximum convergence for the Earth circle, I’d suggest doing it near the Golden Gate bridge. Most obviously, it’s a passageway to a heavenly realm. The cracks might also have been described as golden; I’m not sure. Since they’re in the sky, they’re most certainly suspended, just like the bridge. And a man named Ellis worked to make its benefits available to the world.

      • FeepingCreature says:

        The main cost of rocket launches in our world is construction. Rocket fuel is a footnote.

      • Peter says:

        I wonder if the addition of the motive name increases the specific impulse of rocket fuel. It could have a very dramatic effect if so – if you made rocket fuel twice as efficient, then you could get some seriously heavy payloads into orbit relatively easily. I wouldn’t mind betting it would make SSTOs a whole lot simpler to make, too.

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      “crack trips for everybody”


  14. Name says:

    “You know the saying about curiosity.”

    If curiosity kills the kata, does it save the Ana?

    • JJR says:

      Interesting thing about that saying is that it has a second part that is overlooked, but Scott is probably aware of.

      The full saying is, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”

  15. Schmellow says:

    >you know our man John? We only know two things about him. He’s a priest. And he’s an old friend of the Captain’s
    > there he was, drunk as a skunk, saying he’d been on the Not A Metaphor during its maiden voyage

    Father Ellis had a dog, didn’t he?

  16. dsotm says:

    It was talking about me. And today I’ve come up dry. I’ve failed.

    So what would that failure be – ‘cheating’ his way to heaven, not being able to get TCK out of his crisis of faith, both ?

  17. lolfighter says:

    I’m Catholic myself, and he always took time to listen to my confession. Though I get the impression he was kind of an unorthodox sort of priest.

    Well, obviously. It wouldn’t make sense for him to be Orthodox and Catholic.

    • stavro375 says:

      …You win. Have a Patriarch of Constantinople.

    • Sillence says:

      It would. The Eastern Orthodox Church is officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church.

      • Peter says:

        I think the Roman Catholic Church also claims to be orthodox, but doesn’t bother to include it in the name. AFAICT they both claim to be the One True Church, with the Catholics emphasising the One bit, and the Eastern Orthodox (not to be confused with Oriental Orthodox churches, who don’t have “Catholic” in the name but nevertheless claim to be catholic) emphasising the True bit. The history is complicated and they all seem to have a halfway-plausible claim to be able to say, “No, you’re the splitters” to each other.

        I’m not sure which – if any – Protestant churches claim to be catholic and/or orthodox but I wouldn’t be surprised if some did. That said, it’s much harder for Protestants to claim not to be the splitters, especially given that the whole “protest” thing is baked into the name.

        • jadagul says:

          The Nicene Creed (which a lot of people think as the line you have to hold in order to count as “Christian”) identifies “One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

          In this context, “catholic” means “universal.” Most Christian churches believe they are the universal Church.

      • Gonzalez says:

        I’m Orthodox. In my experience, we don’t call ourselves that. Do you have a source?

  18. cl says:

    Righteous children? does that imply there are non-righteous children?

    • Decius says:

      But how are the unrighteous going to react when the forces of hell seek them?

      What’chu gonna do when they come for you/ bad boys bad boys/ what’chu gonna do?

  19. nipi says:

    “Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.”
    Now what can we read from this?

  20. dtsund says:

    The captain of the Not A Metaphor calls himself Nemo. Nemo, in the Verne books, was Indian royalty.

    This is not a coincidence, because nothing is ever a coincidence.

  21. Alternative theory: the captain is raziel. The opposite of raz is zar, meaning stranger, which certainly described the captain.

  22. Marvy says:

    Malia has strange eyes. Jala has strange eyes, but different. Anyone else I’m forgetting?

    • Schmellow says:

      When Aaron spoke the Vanishing Name at the end of the first book, he went TO being held at gunpoint by a cometspawn inside military guarded facility FROM being interrogated at military guarded facility…by cometspawn?

      Also the comment about righteous/non-righteous children up above. Maybe it is really connected?

  23. Marvy says:

    I may have mentioned this before, but: I really want to see Dylan debate Simeon. It probably won’t happen, but it would be interesting.

  24. Ninmesara says:

    The fact that no one seems to care much about Lin is a little weird… Going to such lengths to save John and even discussing what to say at his “funeral” and not even acknowledging Lin’s sacrifice seems a little callous (Lin’s name isn’t mentioned even the chapter at all).

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Yeah, I have to agree. And they even acknowledge that they need a new placebomancer!

    • anon says:

      Yeah, that is pretty odd. They didn’t hate him or anything, right?

      • Marvy says:

        Thought: he’s nil now: gone, even from the thoughts of those who knew him.

        More likely: it’s just too painful to think about: not only has he been erased, it’s partly their fault.

        • Ninmesara says:

          More likely: it’s just too painful to think about: not only has he been erased, it’s partly their fault.

          That’s something the narrator should tell use about then. We already have tons of information about the characters’ thoughts and knowing that this is the case makes the chapter much more relatable.

  25. linkhyrule5 says:

    … Something just occurred to me that worries me.

    Or rather, something I noticed while listening to the original Hallelujah:

    Oh baby I’ve been seen before,
    I’ve seen this road and I’ve walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew ya…
    I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
    But love is not a victory march
    It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

    Well, maybe there’s a God above
    But all I’ve ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
    It’s not a cry that you hear at night
    It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
    It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

    … The Comet King has lost his wife, and he did not break. And then he assaulted Hell, and God – or Metatron, at least – turned his face away, and then he did break.

    And then he will lose his children.

    That’s not going to make him pure again. Even if it, for whatever reason, the result is something that Metatron can accept…

    All that he has learned from love… is how to shoot someone who outdrew him. Remember what the Comet King was willing to swear to, to keep Hell from conquering the world?

  26. Yovel says:

    I’m quite disappoimted with Ana, she would love to overcompensate and create anarchy…

  27. ABZB says:

    wait, if the ship crossed over panama once before, was the Comet King on it? was *his* name inverted? Could that be what led to his defeat? If he is the Captain, could that be why he changed form?

  28. loqi says:

    Huh, I hadn’t imagined staff on these flights. Seems like it’d be a high-turnover job, I wonder how they incentivize their employees to follow through with the descent.

  29. Irrevenant says:

    “Then maybe being crazy is the right thing to do. So far all I see from your side is a lot of sanity and poor people left to burn.”

    Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like the argument Dylan just made to Mark?

  30. Pingback: Unsong, a fantasy novel where the universe is programmable with Hebrew by Banana699 -

  31. R_ says:

    GPT say:

    Certainly, in the world of “Unsong,” where not passing through the crack in the sky results in eternal suffering in hell after death, the theoretical cost of stretching a rope from the crack to the ground would still involve several factors:

    1. Magical Energy: In this world, magical energy is crucial. Initially, we would need a certain amount of magical energy to create and maintain such a rope, as the rope itself would likely possess magical properties to reach the sky.

    2. Expertise and Knowledge: Experts in the field of magic and Newtonian ropes would be required for this task. Payment for their services and consultations would be necessary.

    3. Resources: Materials and tools specific to this universe would be needed to create the magical rope.

    4. Risks and Side Effects: Magical actions can have unpredictable consequences, so costs would also need to account for potential risks and efforts to mitigate them.

    Taking into consideration the unique nature of this world and the consequences of not reaching the crack in the sky, the theoretical cost could be exceptionally high. It might even involve not just money but potentially the sacrifice of valuable resources or even lives. However, it’s essential to emphasize that this is purely theoretical within the context of the “Unsong” universe and not applicable to our real world.

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