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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sandman: Love Is A Dream - Chapter 5

Welcome to my nightmare... my attempt at creating a fantasy/horror story... a piece of fan fiction based on the once supremely popular DC Comics character Sandman, the king of dreams, who appeared on their mature-themed imprint Vertigo.

Dream, aka Morpheus (and Oneiros, the Shaper, the Shaper of Form, Lord of the Dreaming, the Dream King, Dream-Sneak, the Cat of Dreams, Murphy, Kai'ckul and Lord L'Zoril,) rules over the world of dreams. He is one of the seven Endless: Dream, Destiny, Death, Desire, Delirium (formerly Delight, but is now two in one), and Destruction.

After being captured and held prisoner for 70 years, Dream is now back in business, rebuilding his kingdom... but there is still much he doesn't know about the power vacuum that occurred in his absence. He has been around for billions of years, but still does not know all that much about humans, as he has, in the past merely acted as King... a king unaware of what his subjects and realm requires outside of the basics.
I wrote the novella back between 1991-1992 while I was in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan working as a junior high school assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

At that time I was either sleeping with my ex-girlfriend and current AET, and/or I was sleeping with Junko, the mentally-unstable young Japanese woman who stalked me with sexual advances, knowing when my other girlfriend would leave my place, and immediately would knock on my door begging entrance into my realm.

I know, I know... not something one should complain about, but her constant needs impacted on me through a lack of sleep, as I went weeks without any. Being more than sexually satisfied didn't matter after a while, and had to eventually request help from my Board of Education handlers to literally get her off my front.

On the plus side, suffering from a lack of sleep... my beautiful mind was able to create some really wicked stories, of which this is merely one of them.  

Today's introduction is from the song Black Dog by The Led Zeppelin.


LOVE IS A DREAM
by andrew joseph

CHAPTER FIVE
"Eyes that shine
Burning red.
Dreams of you
All through my head."

"Hello, Boss," caws a hesitant Matthew. "Are you feeling better?"

"I am an Endless one, Matthew. I do not feel anything," snaps Morpheus.

"... uh, yeah, sure, Boss. Whatever you -CAW- say... so, umm, uh... where are you going -CAW-?"

"Well, my nosy little servant. If you must know, I am going to visit Satan in his realm."

"You mean you are going to Hell?" asks Matthew.

"Is that not what I just said?" asks the Sandman, oblivious to Matthew's attempt at a joke.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry."

"Spare me your human manners, Matthew. I need them not."

Matthew blinks uncomprehendingly at the King of Dreams. Although currently a raven, he still possess enough of his former-human qualities to pick up on the acrid sting of sarcasm. He flies over to the table where the Bag of Purple Sands lies, and watches as his Master reaches for his Helm.

Matthew cocks his head inquisitively, but says nothing. He watches as he picks up a second receptacle of power, the amulet, and fastens its clasp about his neck. He then tucks it under his jerkin.

Morpheus hesitates a moment while looking at his Sand, deciding if he should bring the rest of his power with him on his journey through Satan's filth and then clucks his tongue in disapproval. "Just in case," he thinks to himself, "I should not give my enemy a chance to win all from me. It would be foolhardy of me to allow that to happen again."

Morpheus snaps his fingers. The Bag beside Matthew sparks briefly. The Sandman then stands up, and places his helm over his head. It looks exactly like an early gas mask of the 1910's except that the hose is slightly more elongated. The eye coverings are also in the form of a fly's. The Sandman can now see a thousand images from each eye. It takes him a few seconds for his "brain" to allow processing of the sudden influx of new stimuli.

"I am off, Matthew," exclaims Morpheus.

"Good luck," caws Matthew energetically.

"Thank-you," says Oneiros as he vanishes.

Matthew flaps his wings in indignation and mutters, "Hmmph. He doesn't seem to mind my 'human' manners when it suits him. Bastard."

Under his breath, though, Matthew is unaware that he also muttered, "Come back safe."

Morpheus' form flashes back into existence in a room similar in size to a university student's quarters. A small 14-inch colour television sits atop an empty cabinet. And, except for a small spartan bed and a ragged roll-top desk, the room itself is bereft of any fanciful or even bright decorations. The TV does have cable, though.

"Lucien?"

"Here, my Lord."

Morpheus turns to his left as though on wheels. A tall, gaunt, bespectacled man stands in front of seemingly endless rows of full bookcases. He looks like the typical librarian - which is what he is - though he also perform writing duties akin to an accountant, as he keeps a physical record of all the dreams that have ever and will ever exist.

One of the books in his arms totters off from the pile and lands with a thud. A small blue frog hops out from within the pages and begins to croak loudly.

"I will... be going away for awhile, Lucien."

"Ah, yes, my Lord. I see you are dressed for either a battle or a meeting with someone from one of the more fouler regions."

Morpheus is now enclosed in black leather pants, with a black leather jerkin and a long, black robe that is fastened with an onyx button just below the neck. His thin arms are covered with black leather bracers, as well.

"Perhaps both, my caretaker. I am taking along my helm and my amulet. Only one-third of my power shall remain here. Please see that nothing happens to my Bag of Purple Sands or to my Realm."

"As you wish, my Lord. I exist to serve... uh, my Lord?"

"Yes, Lucien? What is it?"

"I hope you'll forgive my sentimentality, but be careful."

Morpheus says nothing except, "Please put the frog back, Lucien," as he vanishes from the Dream.

His sudden reappearance within the lightning storm shatters his grim visage for but a moment. Morpheus inhales deeply and smells the odoriferous stench of demons. A lot of them. Close by. But invisible to his glittering eye. Despite the amplification of his powers by the helm and amulet, he is still but a shadow of his Dreamworld self in the linear demonic universe.

Looking about him, Morpheus walks through the thick red, acrid clouds. Rolling thunder and flashing lightning continue their bewitching tryst about them. His feet touch nothing. He does not look around, as there is nothing to see. He continues on.

Quite suddenly, the clouds disappear, though the echo of the final thunder clash continues from everywhere. Morpheus is not surprised to find himself walking on dry, reddish-brown clay. A seemingly endless river appears before him. An ancient blind man in a boat faces him. Morpheus walks over.

The ferryman says, "You are not dead, for you were never alive. I cannot transport you."

"I did not ask you to, Caron," says Morpheus as he walks to the waters edge. Concentrating, he lifts his body up above the lifeless soil, and projects himself forward across the bubbling cesspool called Styx.

The journey takes only a few seconds, as the great width of the river is merely an illusionary distance meant to confound the damned mortals. He looks back to the shore he has just left and sees Caron patiently waiting for a young Serbian soldier with a gaping hole in the side of his head to enter the boat. Morpheus turns his attention to the huge iron gate - a side door - now barring his forward motion. He hears a splash of water from behind as an ageless oar is wetted yet again.

"What do you want, Endless scum?" barks a gruff voice, as five three-fingered hands reach through the gate towards the Dream King to grab his robe.

Morpheus studies the minor demon, and says, "I have no business with one such as you. I seek your master, Satan... for a boon."

"He grants no boon to anything! Now go away, or come and stay forever, pissant!"

"I bring him a gift," says Morpheus steadily. "And you would be wise to unhand me."

"Give it to me! I'll see that he gets it!" laughs the demon. Several other similar-looking demons have traveled over to see the fun. "No, no! Give it to me!" "No, me!" "Me!" they shout.

Morpheus, looking at the babbling horde through his helm, says, "Your Lord will be most displeased for the delay. Stand aside, foolish ones!"

Morpheus does not notice the bead of sweat that quickly forms on his brow as he empowers a fraction of the amulet's throbbing power.

As the gate begins to roll upward into an invisible reality, the minor demon rabble backs away howling in fright. Morpheus steps through into Hell.

"Well, that was quite impressive, my Lord. But scaring little demons is but a bore. For if 'tis Satan you truly seek, a guide like me, will be much more sweet."

Morpheus looks up towards a rocky outcropping on his right and sees a yellow Rhyming Demon squatting on its haunches.

"Who are you, Rhymer?" asks the Sandman.

"I was born of Succubus and Man. I am the demon, Etrigan," he says with a nod of his head and a flourish of his left arm. His blue cape, which seems to serve no purpose to any minion of Hell, waves majestically in the still, fetid atmosphere. He jumps down to the ground directly in front of the Dream King and raises himself to his full stature to look up into the pale face.

Morpheus looks at the thick set, scaly yellow beast with two small horns set upon his hairless scalp. The tips of his pointy horns comes to the exact same level as his ruby-coloured amulet. His breath, though rancid, is quite bearable by the usual standards set by Hell's Triumvirate.

"I have heard of you, Rhymer. Yes, you may guide me if you answer my next question to my satisfaction. Why, Rhymer, do you wish to aid me?"

"I exist to serve, though not to thee. I'll do my best, just wait and see."

Morpheus places his hand to his chin and pauses in contemplation.

'Trusting anybody in Hell is dangerous, if not downright foolish. Still,' he thought, 'a hellish guide may save me from wasting my strength against possible demon attacks. Then again, Etrigan might be leading me into a trap.'

He slowly lowers his hand and pulls his jerkin down, straightening it. "Very well. Let us be off. But, I warn thee, Rhymer. Do not try anything untoward. You do not wish to feel my wrath."

Etrigan smiles a grin that reveals his two pointed lower canines, and lops off. As Morpheus' long stride quickly puts him beside the demon, Etrigan begins to sing. "Oh, we're off to see the Wizard. The wonderful Wizard of Oz. Oh, here he is: the wonderful Wiz, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. If ever there ever a wiz there was, the Wizard of Oz is one because: because, because, because, because, becaaaussse - Because of the wonderful things he does!... We're off to see the Wizard. The wonderful Wizard of Ozzzzz!" Etrigan turns to smile at the King of Dreams.

The humour seems to be lost on Morpheus.

As the unlikely twosome walk around a particularly nasty visage of chickens with maws packed with razor sharp teeth chasing an old, white-haired man with a goatee, a room materializes on the spot where Etrigan and the Sandman had met.

Satan, with his red eyes twinkling in delight, sits on a long white wriggling chair and smiles as he watches the guide and the guided walk away.

"I'll have to keep my eye on that Etrigan," says Satan to the four-headed badger-like monstrosity in his lap. "I never did trust Rhymers."

A powerful, deep laugh breaks from his throat as he throws the strange creature into a whirlpool on a wall. Its screams of anguish add to his delight. He licks his lips lasciviously and drops his hand in through the skin of the squirming chair. He pulls out a large maggot, places it to his lips, and sucks it in slowly. His blonde hair bounces forward over his crimson eyes in his fit of delirium.

As the room vanishes from sight, the minor demons scamper from their hiding places in the rocky crag towards the open passageway.

Three of them reach it at the same time, and try to push through. In a flash, the gate appears and slams down on their skulls, crushing them. The surviving demons hear laughter coming from everywhere around them, as they rend the flesh from their former comrades. They don't do it for hunger, for demons never crave food (except for the Gluttonous Demons, of course). It's just something they like to do.

-30-

The entire spectrum of DC Comic's horror characters has always fascinated me. Etrigan, created by Jack Kirby, is indeed as described above, though I decided to make him annoying by having him recite the Wizard of Oz song ad infinitum. Why? Because. Because. Because.

Obviously the whole tale takes a Dante's Inferno (from The Divine Comedy) twist here... going down into Hell to find his girlfriend, but I make no apologies here. That's as far as I go with borrowing plot.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph 
PS: The first sentence below is all you need to know... the rest is comic book jibberjabber. I pity the fool that understands exactly what I am talking about.
Image above is The Demon #1 written and drawn by Jack Kirby for DC Comics in 1972. I have all 16 issues of that original run... though I found the character to be more interesting more than 20 years later than when I was but a child. Still... even as a kid, I was always drawn to DC's more supernatural creations: The Demon, Phantom Stranger, Spectre, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and later Swamp Thing (though that 1970s version with Wrightson art is still the best), Hellblazer and even the Doom Patrol. Ya'll might also want to keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming Preacher television series due out in early 2016, if you like that sort of stuff.
For Marvel, Doctor Strange is the best. They need to give him back an on-going series... and his original costume ala Steve Ditko. No one draws otherworldly dimensions better... well... maybe Jim Starlin... but even he admits (I think) that he was inspired by Ditko. Starlin created Thanos... and did the best ever storylines with Warlock and Captain Marvel.
Ditko was the creator of Spider-man with Stan Lee. Kirby... he worked with Lee to start the Marvel age with The Fantastic Four. Oh... and if you watch Hulk and the Agents of Smash cartoon... Devil Dinosaur was a Kirby creation, too.
I have over 35,000 comic books... and to say that I wasn't inspired to be a writer by them would be a lie. By the way... Carl Barks rules. So, too do Hal Foster and Neal Adams. The first two are the best writer-artists ever, while Adams might be the finest comic book artist ever. Sorry Neal... you are a very nice man (got my Green Lantern #76 signed by you in Toronto), but your writing could never match your art.

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