We’re concluding Brief Lives, with Glyph (that’s me) recapping Chapter 9.
A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Schilling reviewed the final two issues.
Dream Country recaps here: Glyph reviewed Calliope then Jaybird and Maribou reviewed Dream of a Thousand Cats in the first review post for Dream Country. Alan Scott reviewed A Midsummer Night’s Dream then Mike Schilling reviewed Façade in the second.
Season of Mists recaps here: Jaybird reviewed the first two in this post. Jason Tank reviewed the next two here. Boegiboe reviewed the next two after that here and here. Ken reviewed the final two here.
Fables and Reflections recaps here: Ken and Jaybird reviewed the preview plus the first two issues here. Mike Schilling and Jaybird did the next two issues here. KatherineMW did the next issue here. Glyph, Ken, and Russell did the Sandman Special issues here.
Brief Lives recaps here: Jason Tank recapped Chapter 1 and Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 2 here. Reformed Republican recapped Chapter 3 and Jaybird recapped Chapter 4 here.
Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 5 and Glyph recapped Chapter 6 here. Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 7 and Glyph recapped Chapter 8 here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!
Brief Lives – Chapter 9
We see the world through the eyes of Orpheus; he has a line of sight to Destruction’s former abode, and witnesses Destruction’s departure as a shooting star.
It’s interesting that when Orpheus falls into a brief sleep and wakes, the position of the stars is what he uses to determine that little time has passed; while presumably roughly simultaneously, across the bay, his uncle is using those exact same stars to pretend that time does not pass at all.
We see what we wish to see.
Help me out – are we to assume that the brief dream Orpheus has of his wife and grandchildren may be the first dream he’s had since his dismemberment? After all, we know from Destruction that the Endless can choose not to dream if they don’t want to see Morpheus, and Orpheus is of Endless stock; and I can’t see him wanting to darken his father’s doorstep, after the falling out they had.
If true, that makes these pages all the more effective, since we are locked into the fixed POV of one who LITERALLY is imprisoned inside their own head; not even free at night, when he sleeps. A worse fate is hard to imagine; as we know, even those in Hell are allowed dreams.
Delirium is reluctantly allowed inside (but not Barnabas), to say goodbye in her own way (which is to say, she doesn’t verbally, though her little wave is sweet). Then Morpheus enters.
And he and his son talk of many things; keeping promises, and Destruction, and how things don’t ever turn out as you planned. Orpheus knows that Morpheus freed Calliope, and as have many, notes that his father has changed. Orpheus is scared; death is what he has wanted for countless ages and now it’s here, in the form of the last person he expected to see again. He throws Morpheus’ words from their last meeting into Morpheus’ face; Morpheus, ever proud, ever cool, doesn’t react with much emotion. Orpheus wishes things had been different; so does his father.
Orpheus says, “I am ready”.
His father kisses him on the forehead, and grants his boon.
Note that whatever Morpheus does to kill Orpheus, he appears (in silhouette) to be doing it through Orpheus’ eyes; maybe he pulled his son’s soul out through that window?
Morpheus closes his son’s eyes with a bloodstained hand, and leans against the doorframe.
The next 6 lovely panels are an example of something sequential art can do well…via the split into multiple panels, we get a static picture with the impression of motion and the passage of time: wind, Morpheus walking into it; the blood drops falling from his hand, and springing up into red flowers.
Dream talks with Delirium, his speech halting; you can hear the regret and the frustration and the sadness and the self-justification all mixed up together in his words.
Despair shows up; and well, she WOULD, wouldn’t she? Note that Dream thinks to cover his bloodstained arms (now both of them; that stain just keeps spreading): decorum? Shame?
Despair asks after Destruction, and Delirium tells her that Dream’s the one she’s really worried about now. Dream and Delirium take their leave (Delirium can’t resist a parting shot at Despair, who wouldn’t accompany her on her quest).
Despair picks a few of the bloodflowers (and when it’s THESE flowers, well, she WOULD, wouldn’t she?) and returns to her own realm, where her twin, Desire, waits. She gives Desire one of the flowers while she tells her the news; Desire ruminates that it could have been worse, and reflects that she intensely dislikes Dream and wanted him to spill family blood; but now that it’s happened, she’s not happy; she’s scared.
So’s Despair, who takes her twin’s hand.
Cut to the Dreaming, where Morpheus stands before the Gates of Horn and Ivory (I like the little historical aside about their creation and that of Dream’s helm from the bones and horns of three dead gods; it has a Lovecraftian feel. I would like to see that story and battle, but it would probably never live up to the impression it makes here as a thumbnail sketch).
Morpheus sends a true dream through the Gate of Horn to Andros, instructing him of the final tasks Orpheus’ keepers must undertake; bury the head safely, but erect no marker, and then their responsibilities are at an end. They are free.
Morpheus goes back to his castle, where his own doormen do not recognize him on sight; he HAS changed, irrevocably, and he spares a few uncharacteristic words of praise for their service. He passes Nuala, and instead of being sharp with her, he inquires after her wellbeing; he even recognizes her pendant as a gift from his ex, but lets it slide.
He goes to Lucien, and gives Lucien instruction to settle accounts from his journey; he will return to work tomorrow, but for the remainder of the day he is retiring to quarters and does not wish to be disturbed, and takes his leave of Lucien.
(Gaiman does a good job, in the Lucien convo, of showing how much Dream is running on sheer emotionally-exhausted autopilot here; normally brusque and to the point, he keeps repeating certain words and phrases: “I have responsibilities / I have many responsibilities”; “Tomorrow, I shall return to my duties / Tomorrow, I shall work”; “But not today (2x)”)
We get a brief interlude, Mervyn complaining to Lucien that minor troubles are all his boss ever has to face, and explaining that if there’s one thing that guys like Dream never have to face, it’s “real life”. Cut to:
Dream, alone in his quarters. He finally removes the coatsleeves that have been concealing his bloodstained arms and washes his hands in a basin. He stares moodily into the basin, stirring it with his finger, and in it calls forth the scene when he attempted to “console” his son, after the death of Eurydice.
And if you thought the coldness of those words would come back to hit him full force, well…you were right.
“She is dead. You are alive. So live.”
Morpheus slumps in his chair, broken and alone.
We get quick vignettes of minor characters encountered along the way, each moving on (or not) with life in their own ways. Homeless Mary Canby drinks in a graveyard, and and thinks of her own long-dead son; Chloe Russell (the girl from the airplane) misses her old cat (and was that the cat that Bast sent the quick death to?) and thinks the new one an inadequate replacement; Danny Capax is burning his father’s secret identities – well, most of them anyway, you never know when you’ll need to be someone else; Officer Tom Flaherty is in a mental institution, his brief brush with Delirium unfortunately looking like it may have lifelong ramifications; and Tiffany has found God.
The “angel” who led Tiffany from sin, Desire, floats in an eye (in vitreous and aqueous humor) of its temple holding a small red flower; but Desire’s thoughts are private.
And Andros and his grandfather bury the head of Orpheus deep beneath the cherry tree. Andros has a brief fantasy of eating those cherries (which will taste of true poetry and song, and he will feel young again) in spring, before realizing that no – he will not live to see another spring.
But that’s OK.
It is going to be a beautiful day.