‘Fourth card, reversed: The Wheel. A card of power.’

Now, here was another card of the Old Suit. Elgen laid it horizontally, signifying that the card was to be interpreted in its reversed aspect. It showed a five-spoked wheel, floating in a cloudy sky. In the background, at the edge of the card, the sky was of a membranous pale blue. In the midground, a whorl of once-pristine, fluffy white clouds appeared to be forming some kind of vortex, a stormy whirlpool in the centre of the heavens. The wheel was either spinning the vortex out of itself, or was infinitely falling into the void at the vortex’s centre.

At the hub of the wheel, there was an eye, staring out. The eye was grey, its gaze unceasing. Again, by some cunning of the designer’s art, Zy had the impression of movement, of turning – the graphic had an unnerving vitality to it, and even viewing it at distance, Zy felt a sense of whirling, of rotation. He leaned further forward, abandoning any pretence of maintaining the proper SharBason – without changing his position, the soft light from the cube lanterns wasn’t sufficient to pick out all the details of the XaMin card.

He stared at this card with greater concentration than at any so far employed. And it, in turn, seemed to stare out at him. He felt a little dizzy as he stared – the wheel within the Wheel appeared to be spinning, an optical illusion of great power. What perplexed and fascinated the boy most was that while, at one moment, the wheel seemed to be turning clockwise, the next moment it somehow abruptly reversed its direction of spin, and in doing so, the whole movement of the card changed.

Not only were the clouds rotating around the wheel, the wheel was rotating upon its own hub – that steely, merciless eye.

Shifting forward still further, as Elgen was delivering his interpretation, Zy leaned a little to one side, too, bringing the card – still frustratingly dim, because of the lenses of his goggles – into a sharper clarity. And there, he saw within the big black pupil of that dominant eye something which he’d initially believed was either reflected light, or the illustrator’s illusion of the same phenomenon – but it was neither. Zy could see now that within the centre of the eye, there was another eye – very small in comparison to the one around it, but exactly the same in all other respects.

Zic zic zic.

Zy began to feel physically unbalanced. The card possessed a kind of energy: all the others had been static, depicting timeless scenes, but here Zy felt himself being sucked into a vortical core – he wanted to know whether, in the centre of the tiny eye, there was another, even tinier eye, staring out – and within that, yet another eye, and then another…

It was impossible to know that, of course, but the designer and maker of the card had been so skillful that Zysoshin had no doubt at all that this infinite descent or regress of eyes, of staring eyes, was implied in what he could, actually, see.

Uh! And the gaze held him. Now, the clouds span around the wheel, and the wheel span around the eye, and the eye dropped away, sank, vanished into the gaze of another eye, around which it, too, began to spin…

Zy had to stick out a hand, and make a mental effort to block himself off from the whorling, machinelike core of this most strange card.


Excerpt from Mask [iii], Volume 11 of Dustless

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