Zeno Crosses the Distance

From the broad back of the lamassu Colleen could look down and see the surface of the ocean so far below, looking like a piece of wrapping paper accidentally thrown away. “God,” she said, and buried her face in its hair.

It flicked its skin irritably. “There is no God but the God,” it reproached her. “The Lord of Air and Darkness and under Him twenty thousand spirits of the air, and under them all the ranks of angels and djinn, Thrones and Dominions. And under them the various elementals and sprites. And then the birds of the air and the beasts of the field and the fishes of the –”

“Shut up,” she said. “Shut up shut up shut up!” She whimpered and dug her knees into its sides.

“It is a known design flaw,” it said. “Sorry. A weakness for triva and pedantry. We all suffer it. It is known, for example, that a witch may be delayed by a handful of sand scattered across his path, and that a demon may be trapped by a jarful of salt set against a door frame. The numbers slip away, you see, and the names; if you look up there are no stars here, nor planets: too much complexity swamps us, sets us running to drain the lake with a soup strainer. Such are our weaknesses.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Its smell was soothing, grassy and comfortingly bestial. When she was a very young girl, her uncle had kept horses and she had gone to see them once or twice. It was that same smell, barnsmell, haysmell; high spaces and a box of cats and animal obsolescence.

“Fair play,” it said. “You’re one of us, now. Gooble, gobble, gooble, gobble.”

She laughed in spite of herself, and felt it going out of her, with seconds between breaths: one, two, three. There were one hundred and six thousand, four hundred, and twenty-three hairs on her head, and she knew them all.