Sandman: A Piece for Mindless Diversions, In Three Parts.

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?’

‘Or Up?’

(The first part of this series is here, the second part of this series is here, and the third part of this series is here.)


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. When I was younger, I had a City in my dreams.

    Not all dreams took place in this City, most didn’t. Maybe all but a handful didn’t. However, when I was in the City, I recognized it. I could tell just from the way it felt to move around. “I may be in a big box store, for some reason… but this big box store is a big box store in my City.”

    This particular City felt like it had a permanence to it that other dreams didn’t. Dream Colorado Springs was Dream Colorado Springs, of course. Sometimes I played there, sometimes I worked there (those dreams sucked), sometimes I just wandered. When I woke up, I felt like dreaming was nothing more than the brain proverbially excreting the proverbial food it had proverbially eaten during the day.

    When I had visited the City, however, I woke up and I always felt a sense of loss.

    I haven’t dreamt about the City for a long, long time. It seems silly to regret not dreaming about it… but… (I’ve rewritten this next part four times in an attempt to get the phrasing just right). When I dream a particularly pleasant dream, I wake up and I think “I hope I can dream something like that again.” When I dream about visiting the City, however, I wake up and I think “I hope I can go back there.”

    Sandman reminds me of the times I visited the City.

    • I have recurring dreams that are set in a fantastical, surreal, vibrantly colorful and architecturally extravagant City. These dreams are, as you say, very rare. But each time I return to the City, I recognize it, and always wish to return when I wake.

      • This is one of those really weird things. I’ve met a number of people who know *EXACTLY* what I’m talking about when I talk about the City.

        That’s one of those things that makes me wonder even more about it.

        • Archetypes and archetypes and archetypes again. Eternal cities that never were, and so always will be.

          The City
          Shining City on the Hill
          Streets paved with gold

          Heck, you might be able to make an argument for something like this.
          Streets that have No Name
          A Giant’s Castle in the Clouds

        • You know what’s fucked up?
          Someone made a video game about cardiac arrest,
          and what they saw during it.
          He’s not alone in what he saw…

        • I’m enormously jealous. Every dream I can remember involves either flying or falling. No land, no sun, not even clouds. The falling nightmares are horrible. The flying dreams are boring.

          I hope the ones I don’t remember are more interesting.

    • I haven’t dreamt about the City for a long, long time.

      There are things upon which we can pass a glance, in our years of formation.
      These things are True.

      We get old. Oldness brings harshness. Less Truth. More Real. Depth. Nuance.

      • the nuance is the truth, a chiascurro painting shifting with every breath.

      • “Guvatf arrq abg unir unccrarq gb or gehr. Gnyrf naq qernzf ner gur funqbj-gehguf gung jvyy raqher jura zrer snpgf ner qhfg naq nfurf, naq sbetbg.”
        ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country

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