This is a guest post from our very own Glyph!
Part I – Prologue –A Logical Unmooring
Hi, I’m Glyph.
You may remember me from such comment threads as ‘Vegans Are Worse Than Hitler’.
I had mentioned, in passing, that I would love to discuss Sandman in this space sometime, and Jaybird, being the Despot around these here parts, immediately conscripted me to write something.
At which point, I promptly thought…uh-oh.
Because while I can dash off a short comment while doing a build or checking in a package, I have written nothing longer (well, not prose anyway) since shortly after college.
Since some of you have not yet read Gaiman’s masterpiece (and oh, how I envy those readers who have yet to fall into it), I have tried my best to avoid spoilers.
But I was worried; because I thought that without spoilers and getting too much to the specifics of the thing, I’d have nothing much to say.
This, as it turned out, was incorrect.
I apparently have enough to say that I am going to turn this thing right around on JB the Despot (hereafter, JB to the D), and do this thing in three parts.
I will attempt to explain Sandman, without explaining Sandman.
JB (to the D) has mentioned that the Sandman arc ‘Season Of Mists’ makes one want to quit their job, and become a writer.
The series as a whole has this effect on me.
There are days when I still think it could happen.
But dear readers, gods and Gaiman, please forgive me the pale imitation pastiche that follows.
Let’s cast off, shall we?
You are dreaming. Lost in a dark wood, you see a figure ahead.
You open your mouth to call out, but no sound comes out.
You are not surprised when the figure turns to face you anyway.
The man (for it is a man, which you already knew; and yet not a man, not exactly – and how do you know this?) is tall, and pale, with stars deep in the folds of his cloak. He beckons you follow him into a clearing…
…in which stands a tower, in a pool of dim moonlight – a clock tower, maybe? Its obsidian stones are polished to a mirror finish, like that of a piano (or a coffin…), joined so closely you can’t see where one stops and the next begins (and yet, you intuitively know that it is not a single solid surface; nor are you are surprised when its reflective surface fails to show your reflection, though you can make out other…shapes…when you gaze into it).
The tower is tall, so tall its top can’t be seen rising past the clouds, so tall that for all you know, its massive round shape is not ‘rising’ at all, but falling, the projected face of some dark moon plunging into the heart of the earth like a nullspear.
You are inside the tower now. Yes.
Yes, a clock tower, millions upon billions of springs, levers and hammers, and gears within gears within gears, clicking, whirring. A cacophony of bells rings somewhere, miles in the depths above. It’s deafening, and somehow beautiful – your mind and body reel with the weight and ancient immensity of it; it’s like being crushed by a metric ton of bejeweled butterflies; you don’t know whether you are going to defecate, orgasm, vomit, sing, or cry.
You’re afraid you may be doing any or all of these things already.
Seeing your stunned expression, the man arches an eyebrow – and does he have stars there, in his eyes, as well? Something burns there, in the deep – and the din recedes.
You both step onto a wooden platform, which begins to rise. Slowly at first, then faster. As it rises you see that what you thought before were gears and levers and hammers, aren’t, not exactly…they’re bones, and the cave-painted shapes of animals and men, and the teeth are Time itself. You see pendulums with blades sharper than any ever imagined by Poe.
You reach the top, and step out onto a balcony. Here, the moonlight is hard and bright, the man’s shape hyperreal now, each fold in his cloak so razor-sharp that you know that to touch him would be to surgically slice your own fingers off. He stands on the wall at balcony’s edge, looking down. The clouds are gone now, and spread out below is the expected patchwork of farms…
Not farms, kingdoms…
Not kingdoms, worlds…
Not worlds, universes…each one locking into the next, like the clock gears before; though over here, the borders are bold and defined; while there, one patch bleeds into the next, all lines & colors thin and stretched and swirled.
And as you gaze, the man steps off the wall – a silent crow’s dive, a black star burning to earth.
This time, you do call out. You scream, the kind of scream that struggles to escape your lips, the kind that when finally free sounds muffled and wrong; because your scream is that of both the Sleeper, and the Dreamer; the twisted sound filtering in from some elseplace that is both larger and yet smaller than the one you are currently in (so how could it not sound distorted, when it doesn’t even know which way to echo?)
You rush over to where he stood, and look down; but he’s gone.
You turn away, inexplicably heartbroken, wondering what it all means…
…and there he is, standing behind you.
But he’s different now. Younger-looking, maybe? Less weary.
And wasn’t his cloak darker, before?
He motions you back from the wall, to the platform, and you notice that you are no longer at the top of the tower, because above your head it rises up, up, up, mind-meltingly Up above your heads.
And you hear his voice; it’s in your head now. Dusty, unimaginably old; terrifying, but not wholly unkind either; in it you hear what you hope is the ghost of a hint of a smile.
The Voice says, ‘Down?’