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Chapter 40 The Possibility of Floating

  • "Have you thought about what you're going to do, little brother?"
  • "When?"
  • "When we reach the gates of Hell."
  • "Not much, no."
  • "Maybe you should. I've listened to you talk about the place and, while _dmire your scholarship, I wonder if it's enough."
  • It was just after sundown and the sky along the horizon was the color of rus_nd bruises. Spyder was spinning the flails of the Hornet over his head, speeding and slowing the serrated metal as they walked. Count Non was besid_im. Lulu and Shrike walked ahead, led by Primo. Lulu said something that mad_hrike laugh.
  • "What's ever enough? In for a dime, in for a dollar," said Spyder.
  • "Does that attitude make you a hero or a fool, I wonder."
  • "They're the same thing. Fools get themselves cornered. Heroes are just th_ools who get out of it."
  • Count Non nodded. "Being a fool might just be your greatest strength. A foo_an do what a wise man won't," he said, and shifted his pack from on shoulde_o the other. "In the Tarot deck, the Fool is depicted as a young man about t_tep off a cliff into empty air. Most people assume that the Fool will fall.
  • But we don't see it happen, and a Fool doesn't know that he's subject to th_aws of gravity. Against all odds, he just might float."
  • "If fucking up is power, I should be the Hulk by now," said Spyder. He took _reath. "Goddamn. I'm going in. I told myself I wasn't. I've been sort o_urning it over in my mind this whole time."
  • "Thinking goes against the fool's strengths. Just do what you have to do."
  • "Truth is, I kind of always knew I was going, from the first time Cinder_ought it up. But I couldn't admit it," Spyder said, spinning the Hornet fro_ide to side. "There's an old Buddhist saying that whenever you ask _uestion, you already know the answer."
  • "I'm glad to hear you bring up the Buddha," Count Non said. "All that medieva_hristianity that informs your descriptions of Hell had me worried. We ca_earn a lot from the Buddha. In Hell, you'll be all right if you remember hi_ost basic advice: follow the Middle Way."
  • "All the books say that Hell's a naked roller derby on broken glass. It'_othing but extremes. Think there's a Middle Way down there?"
  • "If you're on fire, do you jump into the pool of water or the pool o_asoline? Even in the most extreme circumstances there's a choice."
  • "I wish I could see the place. Being blindfolded the whole time sounds lik_alls."
  • "That's the first choice you have to make. Is seeing Hell's dé or worth bein_rapped for eternity?"
  • "I'd have to give that a big No," said Spyder. "How about you? How do you fee_bout playing blind man's bluff?"
  • "It's all the same to me. This won't be the first prison I've visited. I'v_een locked away in dark places. After a while, the darkness becomes a comfor_nd light is the stranger."
  • "You've been there, haven't you? Hell, I mean. You're dancing around th_ubject, but I have this feeling."
  • "My people have done business there."
  • "What kind of business?"
  • "It varied. I'm not proud of much of it."
  • "Why didn't you say anything when I was wanking on about it? If you know th_lace better than me, why didn't you speak up?"
  • "You were doing a fine job. I didn't see any reason to interrupt."
  • "Is there something you can tell me that I should know? Anything that can hel_s?"
  • "That's not permitted," Count Non said.
  • "What does that mean?"
  • "Hell is a place of extremes, yes, but extremes are relative. What's extrem_or Spyder isn't extreme for me. Shrike's extreme isn't Primo's or Lulu's. Th_etails of Hell are different for everyone. Telling you about my dealing_ouldn't do you any good and might just confuse you. I wouldn't want to be th_ause of you getting hurt. Or worse."
  • "You're killing me with tender mercies. There's nothing you have that can hel_s?"
  • The Count sighed. "I've been talking about it this whole trip, trying t_repare you. You're as ready as you're going to be. Remember the Buddha'_dvice. And don't ever lose heart. Hell is designed to drain lost souls o_ope. Don't let that happen. We've already agreed that you're a fool and s_ar, despite a few bruises, you've been lucky. That's halfway to a hero. N_atter what happens, what you see or hear or experience, be the fool tha_ives. That's my best advice."
  • "I was hoping for a magic helmet or something."
  • "Don't be afraid, little brother. The stars are on our side. When the moo_oints to the hellmouth, the underworld's defenses are down and all the gate_re open. `In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shal_unish Leviathan; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.'"
  • "You can talk some shit, Count."
  • Count Non tossed a stone straight into the air. As it arced down, Spyde_ilted up the Hornet and ripped the stone to powder.
  • "There's airships over us," said Spyder.
  • "Angels, too," the Count said. "To the west."
  • "If your people did business with Hell, did they work for Heaven, too?"
  • "Of course."
  • "You aren't not on the flying monkeys side, are you?"
  • "You mean the Brotherhood and their angelic lapdogs? They can all kiss my rub_ed arse," said Count Non. "Would you prefer it if I was on the other side?"
  • "Both sides can blow me right about now," said Spyder. "I'm just jumpy is all.
  • That Bible talk of yours had me wondering."
  • "It's a family habit and hard to break."
  • "You aren't a preacher or something?"
  • "My father is."
  • "I knew it."
  • "When the urge hits, perhaps I should switch to Greek."
  • "It couldn't hurt."