“Simon,” Seymour said, sternly but quietly. “I need you to answer me.”
Simon rolled his eyes about, as if searching for a route of escape. “I don’t need me to answer you.”
“Think about it, Simon. What if you do?”
“What if I do?”
“What if you do need you to answer me?”
“I’m lost,” Seoc complained, seated on the other side of Simon’s cot.
“Seoc’s lost,” Simon relayed.
“I don’t need a translation, Simon,” Seymour sighed. “Just cooperate, will you?”
Simon blinked. “Oh, I don’t go by Simon anymore. Name’s Jesus. Since I pretty much died and came back to life, I think it's fitting. Don't you?”
Seoc groaned. “It’s no use, Sey. He’s as mad as ever.”
Seymour scowled. “It isn’t insanity talking now,” he muttered. “He’s just being obstinate. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if his madness is not deliberately exaggerated.”
Simon’s eyes flashed, and Seymour knew he had struck a nerve.
“What will become of you, Simon, if Snake succeeds in gaining power? Surely then it will discover that you have—”
“Shut up,” Simon hissed. “It might be listening.”
“It isn’t,” the Lady Raven assured them. At that particular moment, she was lurking in a gloomy corner of the nearly-empty infirmary. “The Worm is otherwise occupied. It cannot inhabit more than one head in any given instant.”
“Be quick, then, Simon,” Seymour instructed.
Simon drew his knees up to his chest, pulling the sheet up over them, and sighed heavily. “Very well,” he began reluctantly. “You’re right. I’m not mad—well, at least not as mad as I act. But I don’t want Snake to know that, lest it try harder. I must be a little bit crazy, else I’d never have been able to convince it, seeing as it can read my thoughts and all.” He laughed then, dryly.
“When did it first enter into your mind? Do you know why?”
“I was thirteen,” Simon replied. “It wanted me to help it. To take over the world, y’know. I guess I was too smart for my own good; called attention to myself.
“It tried flattery first. ‘Such a waste,’ it told me. ‘An intelligent, handsome boy like you oughtn’t to squander his life as a mere lord! You, Simon Marandur Edmund, could be a king. Of all the world, no less! Join with me, and you shall be!’ But I refused.
“So it changed tactics. It came to me in a dream—or perhaps many dreams—and took me to see another world. It meant to scare me, I think, for the place it took me to was an uglier place than I’d ever seen. It told me that this was what our own world would look like in a few centuries if the Queens of Time had their way. There was nothing living and green to be seen there. The people dressed strangely and rushed about on roadways of smooth, grey stone. The air smelled horrid and there was no blue in the sky.
“But there was something,” Simon continued, “something about the place that was also beautiful. Something new and fascinating. More than one thing, really. There was a river there—in fact, the city reminded me a bit of Brysail—and beside it, there was a tremendous wheel, strung with oblong bubbles. And something flew by overhead; at first I thought it was an enormous dragonfly, but it was made of glass and metal and propelled by a spinning blade. I asked Snake what it was, and it replied that it was a flying machine called a ‘helicopter’. There were horseless carriages, too, painted in bright, shining colors, and colossal buildings made, it seemed, entirely of glass, so that they glittered and sparkled like giant sculptures of ice. And when I asked Snake to take me to see the gallows, it said that there weren’t any anymore. In this place, at least, criminals were no longer put to death. I looked around, and saw that most of the people seemed healthy and fed. I saw no disease. I saw worry and stress, but I also saw happiness. And I thought that perhaps it would be for the best if our world ended up like that one. It was hideous, but not evil. And so I refused again.”
Simon paused here to take a sip of water from the mug on his nightstand.
“It wasn’t happy then,” he went on, replacing the vessel of liquid. “It pestered me constantly. I knew it was trying to drive me insane, and I felt it winning. But I came up with a plan. I pretended it had succeeded, and, miraculously, it stopped trying. I’ve kept it up for six bloody years, through everything. And it’s never suspected.” He smiled proudly and a bit tiredly. “Now leave me. I must remuddle my brain so that it doesn’t find anything here if it drops by.”