Iff, Butt, and Haroun are pulled slowly forward, but Haroun cannot think of what they’re being taken to. Iff and Butt, cheerless, remark on their dismal state. Butt wails about the hopelessness of their situation and of what Khattam-Shud will do to them, and Haroun tries to be light-hearted. He reprimands Butt, saying that for a machine, he lets an awful lot frighten him. Iff instructs Haroun to look at the Ocean, which is now very dark, and as cold as death. Iff weeps that this is their own fault for not properly guarding the Ocean, and that they lost touch with their beginnings and the Wellspring, and now it's spoiled. Haroun wonders where Mali is, thinking the sight of the Ocean here would horrify him.
Emotion appears to finally be affecting Butt, but in this situation, Haroun encourages it to be more like a machine and less human. The emotional highs and lows that Butt experiences help turn it into a balanced individual who is capable of rationality but also of emotion, though at times like this the emotion is considered to be a detriment. Iff's lament further underscores the importance of maintaining old stories to keep them alive, again indicating that this wouldn't have happened had the Guppees done that.
The dark waters splash as Butt is brought to a halt, and one of Iff's slippers falls into the water and is quickly eaten by the acid, horrifying Haroun. Haroun remarks that Butt must be tough to not be eaten himself, and Butt moodily brushes off the compliment. Haroun thinks again of Mali, hoping the acid hasn't destroyed him.
The poison is intense here, which both creates a sense of awe at those who are unaffected by it (Butt, potentially Mali) and a sense of dread for those who may be eaten by it. Butt is still suffering a great deal of emotion.
The Chupwalas pull the Web of Night away, and Haroun sees that they've reached a clearing in the weeds. In front of them is what looks like a wall of night. 13 Chupwalas surround Iff, Butt, and Haroun, and all of these are scrawny and "weaselly-looking," with black cloaks bearing Khattam-Shud's insignia of the Zipped Lips. Haroun thinks that they look like a gang of office clerks dressed up, albeit dangerous ones. They gather around Butt on their dark sea horses, and Butt shares that the horses are machines, although dark horses are unreliable and untrustworthy. Haroun isn't listening, as he's just realized that what he thought was a Wall of Night was actually a massive ship. But when Haroun tries to tell Iff this, all that comes out is "Ark, ark, ark."
Butt's deadpan descriptions of these terrible individuals and things provides some comic relief to their capture. Butt's description of the Chupwalas' dark horses is a nod back to Mr. Butt's decision to use a figure of speech as a truthful, face-value statement, which plays into the novel's exploration of wordplay as well as further linking Butt and Mr. Butt. Haroun will struggle with reconciling his expectations for what villains look like with what he's confronted with here and through the following chapters. We also see another link established between Haroun and Rashid with the "ark"s.
The Chupwalas lead Butt to a gangway so Haroun and Iff can board the ship. Two Chupwalas remove Butt's brain box amidst Butt's cries, and with its removal, Butt falls silent. As Haroun and Iff climb, Iff stumbles and presses something into Haroun's hand. He explains quietly that it's a Bite-a-Lite that will provide two minutes of light when bitten.
Removing Butt's brain box leaves no room to question whether or not it's truly a machine. However, hope isn't all lost. The reader is able to follow that despite the hopelessness of the situation, Iff and Haroun have a secret weapon on their side.
Haroun sees darkness pouring out of the ship’s portholes like light would pour out of normal portholes, and realizes that the Chupwalas have invented artificial darkness. Upon reaching the deck, Haroun understands how huge the ship is. On the deck are tanks and cauldrons, which Haroun guesses are filled with poisons. The hugest thing on deck is a towering crane with many chains descending into the Ocean, but Haroun cannot think of what they must be attached to.
Haroun is confronted with the fact that the Chupwalas on the ship are truly the exact opposite of the Guppees, and the manufactured darkness underscores that. Finally, Haroun gets to see something that to him looks evil and has the markers of evil— cauldrons, darkness, poison, huge and mysterious chains.
Haroun is struck by what he terms a “shadowy” quality that everything on the ship possesses. He tries to talk himself out of the idea, thinking it's too fanciful, but he notices that the edges of objects are fuzzy, like shadows. He's also struck by how ordinary the Chupwalas look, and how ordinary and mundane their work of poisoning the Ocean seems.
The ordinariness of the evil that's taking place stands in stark contrast to what the evil actually is. As Haroun struggles to understand what his instincts are telling him about the ship, he's learning to trust himself and his instincts.
Iff and Haroun are pushed towards a large hatchway, and out of the doors comes Khattam-Shud. He looks like the other Chupwalas—skinny, sniveling, and clerical, but at his presence the other Chupwalas bow and work even harder. Haroun, disappointed, thinks that Khattam-Shud is quite the anti-climax. To add to the surprise, Khattam-Shud doesn't hiss like the Chupwalas on board, but speaks in a dull, unmemorable voice without inflection. Looking at Iff and Haroun, he remarks that spies are a tiresome melodrama. Iff, brave for a moment, says loudly that it's so typical for Khattam-Shud to do exactly what he wants his followers not to do, as he speaks while they sew their lips shut. Khattam-Shud pretends to ignore this.
Khattam-Shud looks, sounds, and acts as boring as the act of poisoning the ocean does (and this then connects him to the boring Mr. Sengupta, the “villain” of the other story). Both Khattam-Shud and Haroun consider storytelling conventions in their remarks about each other's role in the story—if Khattam-Shud were an exciting and memorable villain, then this would make for a good story, and he stands in opposition to all stories. The fact that Khattam-Shud speaks also introduces a key part of censorship, which is that in order for Khattam-Shud to effectively maintain his power, he has to (hypocritically) reserve the power of speech for himself.
Haroun thinks that Khattam-Shud looks a little fuzzy or shadowy. He thinks this is likely the Cultmaster's Shadow, although this Shadow is three dimensional and very lifelike. One of Khattam-Shud's minions hands Khattam-Shud Butt's brain box, and the Cultmaster quietly murmurs that he'll now be able to unravel the Processes Too Complicated To Explain.
We can infer here that the Eggheads have kept their P2C2E's secret to keep them from the likes of Khattam-Shud. While we don't know exactly what Khattam-Shud could learn from the brain box, it's already been established that knowledge is power, and the brain box will provide him with more knowledge.
Suddenly, Haroun thinks that Khattam-Shud reminds him of someone. Khattam-Shud comes close to Haroun and begins a dull tirade on stories and the seriousness of spying, and finishes with "what's the use of stories that aren't even true?" Haroun shouts that Khattam-Shud is actually Mr. Sengupta, who stole Soraya, and demands to know where he's hiding her. Iff calms Haroun and tells him that this is definitely Khattam-Shud, not Mr. Sengupta.
Rushdie makes it very clear that Khattam-Shud in Haroun's dream is modeled off of Mr. Sengupta in Haroun's real life. Khattam-Shud seeks to take Mr. Sengupta's ideas to the extreme, and not just deprive Haroun and Rashid of stories and Soraya, but deprive everyone of language itself.
Khattam-Shud seems not to notice Haroun's outburst, but says that stories have warped Haroun's brain. He says that stories have made Haroun think that someone like Khattam-Shud should "look like this," and the Cultmaster grows to be 101 feet tall, with 101 heads and arms, all with swords and fire, before shrinking back to his original form. He then says that since Iff and Haroun are spies, they should see what they came to see. He turns towards the doors, and commands that his minions bring Haroun and Iff down into the ship.
Khattam-Shud, like Mr. Sengupta and Mr. Buttoo, sees stories as dangerous and the enemy of logic and normalcy. He illustrates this by becoming the villain he knows Haroun expects, which is another way in which the novel questions what a good or real villain looks like. The 101 heads and arms is again a nod to 1001 Arabian Nights.