“The name of the spider is Cynthrix Sycco.”
The Orbs of Golgotha rotated around their heads as they spoke. They were like the moons of Saturn, suspended in an orbit that was the magnetic circle of their conversation. Each of them sat a thousand miles from the other.
“My apologies,” said the man on the opposite end of the planetary cable. “But I’ve just huffed a gram of moon rocks. Pronounce that name again?”
He sighed. Of course, his informant was a moron. “SIN-THRIX,” he said. “PSY-KO.”
“Ah, ah, we’re square,” said the informant, sniffling a bit. He rubbed the steel lip that protruded from beneath his noodly nostril. “Yes, I’ve heard of xem. Xe rules the the Daedalus Pile, I believe, for the Centennial Oligarchs. Xe’s a bastard, though. A real cruel caliper.”
“I know,” he said. “It lives in a place called the Daedalus Pile, but I need to know where the damn pile is.”
The informant inhaled something through a little machine that was a spinning rotor on a pin, like a needle and loom. He was sucking a ghost into his nose. You could tell because his eyes turned the color of ambergris, and a ghostly shadow was cast upon his retina from inside. He blinked, and the ripple expanded in his eyes like a drop of blood in the ocean.
When people get exhausted of their own miserable thoughts, they inhale a ghost, and imbue themselves with a new stream of experiences and information. Right now the informant was tripping on the memories of a 17th century Venetian squire, who trained on the rooftops with his knight as the sun set red and blackened upon the horizon, and the waters were glassed and blue.
“Answer me, damn it,” he said. “You fucking junkie.”
The informant snorted up a disgusting globlet from his nose. “Ah, shit, sorry, sorry. Yes, I can attach you a map of the Daedalus Pile. I’ve got one. Why, do you want to grovel at Sycco’s feet for a job? He won’t hire you, you know. If anything he’ll just eat you.”
“Fuck off,” he growled in response.
The informant’s eyes rolled back in his head. He was in shivering ecstasy. He was immersed in the life of another, and yet his fingers moved, and he was able to send into one of the rotating Gologothan Orbs a compressed map of the entire Daedalus Pile.
He opened it immediately, severing the link with his informant. The screen went bare. The Orbs fell to the floor, impacting themselves in little pockets, where they ceased to shimmer. The boy rose from his chair, and took the map with him in his palm. He scanned it furiously, learning the lay of the land, and then his thoughts turned to his informant, whom he felt a sharp scent of resentment for.
What a fucking waste. He quits his job at the Centennial just to blow dope all day and sell information while others strive to carry the fat cocks of barons and ministers from dragging upon the floor? He’s on a goddamn pile of platinum receipts and he does nothing with it all. That’s what it looks like when you have no ambition. That’s what it looks like when you truly shouldn’t have been born.
Resentment was a feeling that the boy had grown used to. His IQ was 127. Good, but not good enough. In the world of Archangel, the average IQ was 157. And if you were below the average, you received limited access to the server. You were not allowed, for example, to undergo eldtrich modification, or any gene modification above the CC12 level. AAA1 modifications were only for the best. With those, you could become something resembling a God.
He strode free from his room, which was only a single narrow alleyway with a chair at the end and a bed embedded in the wall. It was long, a good twenty meters, a little slice of excess inside the building plan. It was meant to be a space only for pipes, and a thousand pipes ran through it. He sidled free between the walls into the hustle and loud of the city.
The streaming veins of the Akashic Record poured like thin waterfalls over every surface, spider’s silk, linking every surface and forming the connective tissue of the brain’s most bloody and intuitive core. The mind of Archangel was powerful enough to recreate the entire body of human mathematical knowledge in 27 minutes, from the first emergence of numbers to the cutting edge of string-soul-synthesis.
Its secrets were so profound that they leaked over the centuries, they leaked from every skyscraper, from every wall, the theories of the universe squeezed out like pus born of a compressed wound.
Alongside the great wringing, hordes of people walked and shopped and took shots and breathed. They sat at the fountain’s edge beside ornate gothic monuments, tendrils rising like octopus legs from the deep, which had finally crystallized and turned white like the branches of dead trees. Those dead legs then ejected water, and the spouts were stronger than the blowholes of Leviathans from the deep that lingered below.
Nobody really understood what happened in the fountain’s deep, the watery world beneath the city, presumably the source of all the electric pus. Things swam there, things the size of continents, but no one was strong enough to withstand to pressure, so no one but the Sonarchs knew what they were. And the Sonarchs felt no responsibility to inform the public.
The boy walked up to one of these fountains, that led to the inky core of Archangel, and remembered, as occasionally a denizen of the net always remembers, that his mother was born beyond him, and his genetics had been transferred into a wall of servers like cybernetic wafers, lining the cliffside of a fallen world, a metallic brain on the edge of the last unflooded island of a humankind that thought it knew God and really witnessed the dark hand of Mammon.
The boy rolled up his sleeves. People were watching. It was no matter. He didn’t care whether or not he was able to return. He crouched before the fountain’s rim, the ring of darkness, and he leapt forth like a stadium diver into the pit. His eyelids were rammed shut so hard his eyes reverberated in his skull. The next thing he tasted was blackness.
“You do not know how low my shadow goes, into the brick and circumference of this round Earth.”
Such words inscribe the Leviathan-pools of the deep web. Some say that the foundation of the waters is made from the crystallized corpses of dead girls, prostitution machines and other AI thrown away once they’ve stopped working.
Others believe that at the very pit of the black rests the stringy corpses of ten-thousand saints, their arms bloated by the waters of the web, extending long like streams of silvery lava on the unfeeling sea floor.
Either way, there are corpses.
The Daedalus Pile was a server originally designed to be a swimming city, or a mobile castle suspended on the back of a black turtle. It was programmed back in 1974, for the first time, only an inkling of it sprayed into the net by John Howe, a meek man with horn-rimmed glasses and a gentle disposition. He did not make a world with a gentle disposition.
The small bit of code he had made, describing an island afloat in the oceanic deep, evolved of its own accord. Like crystal, like DNA, code is self-regulating, self-synthesizing. The island came together until finally it shone like a white moon, the shape and circumference of our own.
That was when the boy knew he was hellishly close to the Daedalus Pile – when he saw in the far reach of his vision the glowing orb that languished in the darkness, the single star that spoke into the abyss in the language of dim moonlight, and some small creatures swam around its body in awe.
His pulse was rising now. When you do something that may kill you, the carefree nonchalance of the initial movement, the movement into faith, is immediately grounded once your intentions actually seem possible. Then, it becomes possible to fail again. Then, anxiety sets in.
He put oozing dark water behind himself with every stroke, until at last he knew he wouldn’t make it. His throat enhancements were designed for magnitudes less water pressure than this. He felt a siren’s ring in his ears. Low, the hum of a cultish organ echoed in his brain, roiling between synapses like a ball of garbage between twisted waves.
He had to use it. So he aimed his fingers for the moon, outspread, wide like a palm grasping a ball. He set his intentions and then he pressed it, the knob just below his shoulder. He surged forward like a refreshing page whose slow chug suddenly captured a second wind.
Teleporting through the water, he found himself face-to-face with the moon, and sensing massive creatures beneath him, he wasted no time in breaking through the firewall, and entering the digital atmosphere of the Daedalus Pile, a sensation like a train’s window roaring past green fields only to find oneself gazing once again at factories, and men with nowhere to go, and rich restaurants alongside abandoned bus stations and walled-off rooms.
The bulbous heads of fat infants whizzed around the white skies on white wings. Like demented pigeons, they drooled and their eyes looked from side to side, watching the boy enter their world with renewed interest.
He looked up at them, and knew that they were enlightened. They patrolled the skies of the Daedalus Pile, a white world as far as the eye could see. White, that most demonic color, simultaneously the combination of every color along the wheel, the ultimate form, and the final absence, the silence of the word, the infinite cycle of zero.
The boy checked his right palm. The travel stamp of the Daedalus Pile had written itself into his dark, oceanic skin. It was the image of the pentagram, which like zero, was simultaneously the symbol of Satan and the five bleeding wounds of Christ. To thread one of those wounds, through the palm, fist or foot of the savior, was to become worthy of a throne. To thread the rib, the wound that Longinus made, is to become a prosecutor.
The boy had had experience with prosecutors. So much experience, in fact, that watching videos on the net of people getting calmly cuffed and arrested made him feel at home. That sickly feeling of a 6 PM sundown in an anonymous American city, on a weekday, or a casual early evening, being arrested and accepting that you’re no longer free to move – it was the most freeing experience he could at this point imagine.
The fat infant heads dizzied themselves and spoke and buzzed around, and one zipped off to the capital to inform Cynthrix Sycco that his visitor had arrived.
The sensation of being here was like the stillness of a fit of uncontrollable rage. When finally you scream, impotently, and understand that no one will hear, that there is no response, and in that brief lull you feel stupid for having been angry at all, that is where the Daedalus Pile lives.
For most people, that silence constitutes the afterlife. Breaching out of white naked like unseemly seals, they scream hollow to the sky and the silence that follows, and their gasping chests, their wide eyes and need for companionship meets a billion year absence of being. They say that nothingness is the ultimate presence of God. They say that dark is one side of the coin that is light. Well, when you die, if you lived wrong, you will come to see what those words mean.
At last, the spider walked along the spit-sheen gleaming mirror shine sparkle of the white ocean. At last, at the horizon of his vision, he saw Cynthrix Sycco, the great spider, move toward him on cautious limbs.
Even the priests huddled together out of fear when those legs click-clacked upon the marble floors of the cathedral, fearing impalement by a single step, Sycco’s preferred method of sacrifice.
The boy wasn’t scared. He stood like a roguish hero in the white wind, his right hand clasped to his chest, and his left suspended at his side, his palm deflecting outward, as if he was absorbing energy from the air all around.
He maintained this pose as Cynthrix drew so near he could see his face. And then he felt the red-dark hues of a blood cluster forming in his higher self.
Cynthrix had the face of a human, with greasy black hair, long and hanging from either side of his face. But his face was deformed. It was long, perhaps a meter wide, and his mouth stretched along from ear to ear, a single fat tongue with perpetual saliva drooping from his sheepish grin. His eyes were set deep in that head, and they barely rang with life at all. It was only that sadistic smile that gave you the understanding that he was conscious.
All in all, he must have been as tall as a bus. And he loomed over the boy, and savored their reunion, as his respirator began to chug and chortle with a few disparate machinations, piecing together like pixelated slop the image of pleasure.
“In all my years on this world, I never fathomed that I would meet you again,” began Cynthrix, and his voice sounded like Nergal’s. “How did you get here, then? You swam through the dark web? I’m sure you know you’re not going back.”
“I came to give you a crown,” said the boy.
The great spider nodded, pacing slowly to the boy’s left, indicating the unpredictability of his actions. “A crown of poisoned thorns? Your pick and bramble? Your poisoned berry?”
“Better yet. A crown of fetal tissue, mangled in the womb.”
Now Cynthrix laughed like a cyclops. “You mock me. You think me such a savage? You are such a caricature, Armiel. You think I am evil, so nothing is beneath me. But in fact, a lot is beneath me. The spite you feel right now, for example, is beneath me. If the good have sharpened their hearts into razors, and the bad have merely accepted the now, then who is truly the more toxic force?”
Armiel, the boy, drew a dagger roughly one foot long out of thin air. This was, of course, his second modification. He only had the power to perform three. The first was in the deep, when he knew he was about to drown. That drained his ability to engage in banter. The next was the sword he made, a bluff, to engage Cynthrix on his own terms. That exhausted his arms. The last would sever his tongue. It was all encoded in his very DNA.
Cynthrix Sycco had no limitations. He had an IQ of 844. When he spoke, the words had a different meaning entirely to anything that Armiel could understand. He already accepted that. But he did not accept that Cynthrix was good. He did not believe that intelligence alone created truth out of the void.
He heard seagulls flocking to a nearby shore. White, cresting waves of static rushed upon the limits of the mirror-fortress. White froth accumulated in the corners of the spider’s mouth. Cynthrix Sycco sighed.
“I will kill you now.”
“Infinity Blast,” said Armiel. Instantly, Sycco lunged forth with his leg-spear. “EIGHTFOLD!”
The sensation of a cyberclad appendage impaling you through the stomach is nothing new. It is the same as being impaled by a stone spear, or an elephant’s tusk.
And yet the sensation of being dwarfed in intellect so totally for even a fraction of a second is also not new. The radio silence of the dark night of the soul flashed and fried Cynthrix Sycco’s brain, whatever remained of it, inside its cyberfractured chamber.
It’s a C rank technique – explode your own heart to multiply your IQ by a factor of eight for a tenth of a second. For monks or psychonauts, it’s just a pretty way to commit suicide. As a practical technique, it is utterly valueless.
Except in the case of a person who made a vow with his own kingdom – in the case of Cynthrix and his Daedalus Pile. He remains omnipotent here, in his little bubble, only so long as he is the most intelligent being inside it. If anyone else overpowers his intellect, for even a second, he will instantly die. That is the pact he made with himself years ago, when he was a low-level engineer at Google, and wanted only to have a throne of his own.
Grasping the stark, cold steel leg of the spider as its body collapsed, as Cynthrix’s great gaping maw gushed blood and his tiny eyes rolled back in his long horizontal head, Armiel spit his final words, without a heart:
“All I ever wanted,” he said. “All I ever wanted was to beat somebody who’s better than me. At any cost. That’s all. I just wanted to be…more than what I am.”
And he died there, impaled through the liver, conjoined with the bubbling sizzle-death brain surge of the great limp body of Cynthrix Sycco.
The two stayed there for a long time. And in a thousand years, they crystalized into a monument. They were never moved. The bulbous fathead winged children watched over them, and gossiped, and in due time a man who had fused himself with a bobcat came to roam the boundless white of the Daedalus Pile.