Congratulations--you have found
the decryption for the encrypted story in City of Saints
& Madmen. Just remember--those who cheat by not
decrypting the story themselves earn the well-deserved
wrath of those who did put in the hundreds of hours
required for decryption. Just fair warning...
MAN WHO HAD NO EYES
Preamble:This is an approximate decryption. The exact meaning of the encrypted
story, the precise words used to compose it in encrypted
form, and the emotional resonance of decrypting the
story are subject to change. Without decrypting the
story yourself, your personal reaction to it will always
be muted and inexact. A strange impulse will come over
you. A kind of curiosity. This impulse will direct you
to decrypt the story even after you believe you have
interpreted its meaning from the pages that follow this
note. At night, with a flashlight, your lover asleep
next to you, you will find yourself turning pages, scribbling
words, intuiting numerals. In the morning, spent, you
will remember nothing but a faint tingle in the temples,
where resides information you cannot quite retrieve.
THERE CAME A day when the gray caps changed
the course of the River Moth and flooded the city of
Ambergris. Abandoning their subterranean lair, they
came out into the light, put the rulers of the city
to flight, and took over the islands that were now Cinsorium
At first, people found that life did not change
much under the new rulers. It certainly did not change
for the most famous writer in Ambergris. Born in the
city, he used the city as his palette, bending every
word in the world to his will. He could create paragraphs
so essential that to be without their smooth, wise forms
was to be without a soul. If his mood was grim, he would
create suicide paragraphs: words from the almost dead
to the definitely dead. He could, I tell you, describe
an object in such a way that forever after his description
replaced the original.
Perhaps if he had been less talented, he would
have been less arrogant. For praise rose all about him
as naturally as the fog that came off the River Moth
and he came to think of himself as unbound by any laws
other than those of fiction.
Thus, he felt a growing need to break the labyrinthine
rules of the gray caps. He laughed at daybreak in front
of the watery ruins of Truffidian Cathedral. After dusk,
he distributed his stories on public streets for free.
He read his work from a boat above the flooded and now
forbidden statue of Voss Bender. He wrote paragraphs
in honor of the Lady in Blue (who, from the underground
passages of the gray caps, confronted them with the
evidence of their own cruelty).
After the fifth such offense, the gray caps
cut out his tongue and threw it into the now bloated
River Moth, for the fish had grown fond of such flesh.
They plucked out his eyes and used them on their barges.
They cut off his hands and used them as candles at their
administrative offices. They mutilated his torso with
their symbol, in fungus green. Then they sent him to
the one-room stilt house of his birth, by the water,
so that he could, in darkness, contemplate his fate
where once he had watched swallows fly, snatching insects.
For a long time, no one visited the writer
out of fear. His own wife left him because she was not
brave enough. Every week, a Truffidian priest would
come close enough to leave food and water on his doorstep.
The writer sat in a chair facing the wall as
the stories built up inside of him until he was so full
that he thought he would die from the weight of them
in his lungs. But he had no tongue with which to speak.
He had no eyes with which to see the world. He had no
hands with which to write down his stories. He lived
inside a box inside a box. What now could he do?
For many weeks, he thought about killing himself
and might have done so except that one day he bumped
against the table on which he set the supplies and a
pen rolled off the edge. It fell against his left foot.
The touch was cold and sharp. The sensation spread up
his leg and up into his torso until, inside the boxes
inside his head, something awoke.
The writer spent the next three weeks feeling
his way across every inch of his room much as you, dear
reader, are feeling your way through this story. He
picked up anything that lay against the walls until
the table, the chair, the bed, and a few books all stood
in the middle of the room. Then, holding the pen between
his toes, he began to write on the wall.
It took many months to learn how to write with
his feet. It was weeks before the visiting priest could
read a single letter and much longer before anything
more complex appeared on the walls. Words formed without
form: “crashing am worry depends on the continuing earth
exists can Zamilon.” Each letter became an act of will—a
playing out in his mind of what it should look like
and then making his toes, his foot, his leg, apply the
correct pressure to the wall so that the pen did not
break and the shape took form correctly.
Over time, the writer covered the walls of
his room with the visions that blossomed in the dark
gardens of his mind. Words formed sentences, sentences
paragraphs, paragraphs stories. With each word, a great
burden lifted itself from the writer and he began to
feel like himself again. Later, with sheets of paper
and more pens begged from the priest, more words spilled
out in a jumble, his pages a flood greater than that
brought by the gray caps.
I saw one of
the stories the writer wrote on the wall—in red ink,
surrounded by thousands of other, disconnected words.
There once was a cage in an empty room. A soft,
soft sound like weeping came from the cage. After a
time, a man entered the room. He was gray and sad. He
held a small animal by the ears. It was battling to
escape. The cage grew silent. The man approached the
cage. He pulled the cage door open, threw in the animal,
and slammed the door shut. As the man watched, the animal
screamed, its paws sliding off the bars. A wound appeared
in its left leg. A wound appeared in its left shoulder.
Slowly, the animal was eaten alive until it was just
a pile of bone and blood. The weeping became relentless.
Everything the man placed within the cage died. Every
time, the man felt a corresponding thrill of delight.
But eventually the thrill died too. It became ordinary,
something he had to do. Would it ever stop? He could
not decide. One day, he grew so bored that he opened
the cage to let the nothing out. He expected it would
kill him, but it did not. It let him live. It followed
him everywhere. Over time, it killed everything he held
dear, weeping the entire time. When nothing was left
to care about, it abandoned the man. The man sat in
his room with the empty cage and made the weeping sound
the cage had once made.
Before the gray caps had mutilated him, the
writer had published dreams and long, absurd stories.
He had published fake histories and travel guides. I
cannot say I care much for what he writes now, although
he became famous for it. Within a short time, readers
began to come from far away to buy a page from him.
The writer would be able to continue to do what he had
always done. He just had no tongue. He just had no eyes.
He just had no hands. Was that really so bad?
At least, this
is the story the man wrote for me when, as a traveler
to Ambergris—fresh from an encounter with the giant
squid that had scuttled my boat—I visited him in his
room. Later, others told me that he had been born in
his current state and that all of his ideas came from
old books by obscure authors, read to him by a friend.
When I first
saw him, he sat by a window, his head thrown back as
if to receive the light. (I now know he was listening.
Intently.) The writer was a wiry man whose face, with
its wrinkles and mouth of perpetual grimace, hinted
at tortures beyond imagining. His arms did indeed end
in nothing. His legs, curled beneath him, were tight
with muscle and ended in muscular feet. His toes seemed
as supple as my fingers. When I came in, he smiled at
me. He uncurled his feet, stood, and held his leg up
in a ridiculous position. I thought he wanted to “shake
hands”, but no: he held a piece of paper between his
toes. He nudged it toward me. I took it. What did it
say? I could not read it. It was just a series of numbers.
What do numbers mean to a man like me? Nothing.
1:1 15:4 1:3 15:8 2:56 5:35 4:66 14:34 4:33. 4:56 14:34 2:25 1:3 5:74 5:75 13:191 7:43 5:96 5:97 5:98 5:99. 1:6 5:96 7:79 10:91 13:208 3:18 1:6 4:35 10:59 10:60 16:59 4:78. 1:6 5:96 7:79 10:91 13:208 13:209 1:6 12:22 1:45 2:90, 9:20 9:21, 14:33 7:63. 5:31 7:79 10:91 16:23 1:45 1:23 13:116 1:39 10:43 12:10 2:90 10:46 1:38 7:63 9:26 9:27 14:12 2:100 13:77 16:53. 5:31 7:79 10:91 16:23 9:26. 2:67 2:90 13:152 1:26 2:46 14:48 10:40 1:38 2:92 10:47 1:45 7:58 10:27 10:48. (12:1 10:41 4:40 14:33.) 10:57 2:90 14:64? (16:143 10:91 10:42.) 10:49 2:90? (12:1 3:10 2:4 10:50.) 9:24 13:22 10:5 13:156 15:4 4:5 14:43.
Note: At this link, you
will find the decryption of the numbers above. Many
readers take this path. Some of them are quite good
readers. You could not be blamed for following their
lead. After all, why should you waste time when you
can just turn the page? Readers who actually take the
time to decrypt the numbers above gain at most only
two or three startling epiphanies. This is probably
not enough to make it worth your while to rip page 6
from its stapled moorings and toss it into the wastebasket
without a glance…