Chapter two is preceeded, as you noted before, with a picture of a human skeleton. The lower half of the skeleton seems to be in the process of turning to dust and is blowing away in the wind. Below the image is an eight pointed star — a symbol for absolute chaos. The pages of this chapter are dry and brittle to the touch, and small bits flake away from the edges of the pages as you touch them. You’re surprised that pages as brittle as this didn’t disintegrate entirely when you submerged the book in water.
As a result, even though this chapter is rather short, you find yourself turning the pages very carefully and handling the book quite gingerly — reading, therefore, is a much slower process than with the previous chapter. During the course of your reading, you come across many pages that seem to have fallen (or been ripped) out of the book, although the text continues from one page to the next uninterrupted. In all cases, you’re not sure whether the pages flow together by coincidence, or whether you’re actually not missing any information from the book. The absence of surety is unsettling.
The chapter starts, as before, with a short story — you’d hesitate to call it a fable, though, given it’s utter lack of meaning or context. In your experience, most stories have some kind of point or purpose to them that brings them to a logical conclusion, teaches a lesson, or imparts some kind of meaningful content onto the reader. This story, in contrast, seems merely to be a recounting of events.
The story begins, as the previous story, with a kingdom. Unlike the previous tale, it does not go into the king’s politics or make any moral judgments as to the quality of his reign. It simply starts with the king resigning his post and leaving the rule of the land to his people. The king then leaves his lands forever and is never seen again. Before long, the land degenerates into petty squabbling. Without the rule of law, the denizens of the kingdom degenerate to an almost animal state. Brother kills brother. Father kills son. The strong prey upon the weak. There is theft, murder… humanity’s dark side runs rampant, and a darkness settles across the land.
Within a few years, though, a few people, through strength of arms or wit, manage to carve out some kind of control. They have their way through fear and oppression. Despite this, however, no law ever again descends on the kingdom. Any man is free to do what he pleases, as long as he doesn’t cross someone more powerful than he. Anarchy reigns for all time.
The story ends, thus, abruptly. The following chapters (all of which seem to be written in different hands than those in the previous chapter) bear little relationship to the story. All of them, in different ways, preach the rule of chaos — of anarchy. The strong, they preach, should rule the weak. Many of them site nature as the perfect example of this: Humankind, they preach, should be no different than the animals of the earth. There are only predators and prey. Pack dynamics can exist, but only insofar as the alpha member of the pack allows. Hungers exist to be satisfied. Thirsts exist to be slated. And whoever he be who tells you that you cannot do either should either be dead or stronger than you are.
As you near the end of the book, you hear a sound that once again makes you think of far off thunder. This sound, however, does not fade as the previous thunders have. It continues to rise in volume until it threatens to overwhelm you. Despite the noise, you steel yourself and manage to take in the last paragraph of the chapter:
A choice for chaos can only be made if all of the remaining chosen agree. It is a choice for freedom from the rule of law — a return to the patterns of life from whence humankind came. Chaos is a force of nature, and a force against the shackles of order that man would put on nature. This choice is not without price, nor is it without reward. To choose chaos means to choose power, destruction, death, and ruin. Choose chaos and wipe the slate of existence clean, to begin anew.
You scarcely finish the paragraph when Harold claps a hand on your shoulder. “It’s time to go, Vlad. He’s found us.” You look out the window and quickly see what Harold was talking about. Out the window, the streets as far as you can see are covered in a mass of writhing insects. Maggots, roaches, beetles — all manner of crawling things seems to be descending on your current location like an avalanche. You notice, among the insects, a fair number of the bugs that chased you from the library a while back and your mind goes back to the first time you saw Benziah… his pretty ones, indeed.
From all directions this massive flood of insects barrels down on you. The streets and all low-lying architecture are caught inside and quickly vanish — like rocks in a stream. It gives you the impression of a river in the middle of a rapids — with the tops of buildings acting like rocks that break the surface of the water.
The mass stops on all sides of the building you’re in — unable to pass the yellow line that Harold drew.
This was another very close contest. It was neck and neck when I looked at it last night, and then today it got two votes, tying it up again. The final vote around 5pm ended the tie, though.
Also, feel free to post questions for Harold in the comments in addition to your vote. I’ll have him answer a few of the best ones in the next episode.
Updates are on Monday and Thursday afternoons. You must be registered to vote in the polls.
If you’re getting into this late, here’s an explanation of the concept behind Ward32.