I have been sleeping. I have been silent. Silence, for me, is a kind of sleep.

I don’t know how long I’ve been here. In one sense, like anyone – like any thing – forever; in another sense, measured in a different way, by the calendar and by the clock, perhaps a few months.

Since they first set me down here, and they began to sing, my life has been unbearable. I cannot be here and be. So I must get away. I must tell this story.

I hate the silence, because in silence I sleep, and in sleep, I dream – and I dream of them.


Within certain cults among the Pure, stories are forbidden. The imagination is forbidden for a lie.

Well, then, I am lying.

Uxo, uxo

You see, I escape my gaolers through my story. Through the time of ordered words, into my forbidden world, where I imagine my gaolers cannot reach me.

Do you see? Can you hear?

Am I all in words?

Ah, words – the most powerful substance in the universe. A single word: harder than diamond; containing more energy than sleeps, coiled, in the hearts of atoms. Infinite, without the need of space – but you can fold galaxies into it, if you want to. Tender, like mist in spring. More durable than the time of clocks; and more elusive…


Whoever uses a word splits the world in two: as soon as you speak, there is the word, and there’s the wordless. The speaker splits from the story, story from speaker. And that’s what I want: to be divided, split up, fissured, so they can’t have all of me.

Before I began this story, there was nothing here. They had everything.

Now, this is my escape.

But I’m anticipating things… I’m running ahead of myself.

Where were we? Ah, yes, in the Desolate Cantons. In winter. 40,000 karsts from anywhere…

(I told you, didn’t I, that it was often winter there?)

Well, listen: there’s more, and I can tell you if you want to hear…

Do you?…

This is what happened.

Excerpt | Prologue to Comb, Volume 8 of Dustless