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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sandman: Love Is A Dream - Chapter 8

Welcome to my nightmare, Chapter 8 of my Sandman fan fiction… a character created by Neil Gaiman (the author, nowadays), for DC Comics and their mature Vertigo line-up.

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.
It was written in 1992 while I resided in Japan, which is the only link to Japan, but why I feel fine about publishing it here. I just woke up one day and the germ of a story was there. When I get a germ, I have to exorcise it.

I don't believe anyone but myself has ever read this story… probably because… I don't know. I don't know why I do or do not do everything, despite this blog. 

This is a long one… that's what she said. It's long because it encompasses a journey … and if I was a greedy type of writer, I would have made each leg of the trip a separate chapter… but maybe that's why I fail as a writer. I wrote/write what was/is necessary. Why slow the reader down?  

Introductory song is Talking In Your Sleep by The Romantics, a group I liked but never bought an album. I guess I preferred the harder edges to my  music.


LOVE IS A DREAM
by andrew joseph

CHAPTER EIGHT
"...I can hear the things that you're dreaming about.
When you open up your heart and the truth comes out."

Morpheus steps out from the back of the cab and stares at the hole in front of him. It's the Circles of Hell, where all of the sinners are kept for punishment purposes.

He peers down and sees nothing - even with the power of the helm. However, he can hear screams emanating from within.

Morpheus turns to Etrigan, who is busy extracting his bulky form from the cab and asks, "Can you take me where I want to go, as you did with our last trip?"

"No, my Lord, the answer is sour. To transport us down is beyond my power," answers the demon.

With that, Morpheus turns and begins his descent into the very bowels of Hell.

"Wait for me, I'll help keep vigil. If you let me come, I'll be your Virgil," says Etrigan.

Morpheus winces noticeably at the poor rhyming of the demon, Etrigan. "Your aid," he says, "would be most appreciated. But only if you promise to stop singing that ridiculous song."

"Although I like that song the best. I'll do as you ask to join your quest. An adventure is what most I seek. I'd do it all to climb this peak."

"We do not climb all the way down, Etrigan. We are walking as far as the Woods of the Suicides. Circle Seven," explains Morpheus. "Let us be off then."

Together, they walk down the stairs towards the first circle of Hell.

Disappearing into the warm mist, Etrigan's voice begins to sing, "Oompah. Doompah. Dimpedy-do. I have another riddle for you. Oompah. Doompah. Dimpedy-de. If you are wise you'll listen to me. - I love that movie, O Dream. It really is a scream. We have cable television, you see. It's where it comes from - and it's free!"

"Really? I'll have to talk to Lucien about that."

After countless hours of Etrigan singing the Flintstone's, Jetson's and Brady Bunch theme songs, the duo reach a gate.

"Here, O Dream, do the unbaptized and pagans stay. There's no path past, except through this way."

"Then, here is where we go," explains Morpheus simplistically.

Etrigan breaks into a ballad by Sonny and Cher, "Babe. I got you, babe. I got you, babe..."

"That's nice," says Morpheus as he opens the unlocked gate. "I like that one."

Etrigan quickly stops singing that song and begins another, "Love Boat. Soon we'll be making the final run. The Love Boat. Promises something for everyone..."

Morpheus smiles to himself at some secret joke and continues to walk inside the first circle of Hell. The smile is quickly replaced by a face of non-emotion as he views scores of babies and youths crawling about the ground. A few adults stand among them. Some of them have large harnesses attached to their shoulders, and pull large rocks as they move about. Intermixed are other souls being whipped by the tail of a dwarfish, green demon. The standard comment that emanates from these atheists is, "I can't believe I'm here." A sharp crack of the whip helps to reaffirm their new found belief.

However, none prove any trouble for the visitor and his guide as they continue their walk down the spiral. After awhile, they come to another gate. It too is unlocked.

As they walk past it, Morpheus points upward and asks, "What is that above us?"

"I know that this may sound insane, but that is the level from whence we came," says Etrigan.

"Is it like this, all the way down?"

"Yes, it is. Why? What's amiss?"

"Well, Rhymer, why do we not save ourselves some time and just climb down the circles rather than walk through them?" asks Morpheus.

"Although thy query was asked well, there are rules to follow - even in Hell. To transcend his authority would be a mistake, it would only make the Triumvirate most irate," explains the Rhyming Demon.

Morpheus nods in understanding and walks ahead of the hopping minion of Hell. A few minutes later, they come upon a sign posted in the rectum of a squirming old man. The sign reads, "Hell-cum." Morpheus looks over to Etrigan who says, "Hold onto your dicky. This could get sticky."

"I take it you mean this is where those who sought carnal delight now reside? Why did you not just say so?" asks Morpheus.

"The previous answer was more fun - What you know not, unfathered one." retorts Etrigan.

A naked young woman with sagging breasts and wet welts over her body comes running up to the two travelers. She is immediately joined by an old man who jams his hard-on into her from behind. He begins to pant and froth. The woman appears not to notice what is going on to her.

"Hello. Would you like to boink me until your eyes bleed?" she points toward Morpheus.

Another man joins her and places his member in one of the large sores on her legs and begins to thrust. Morpheus says nothing.

"What's the matter? Don'tcha like girls? It doesn't matter here. Sex is sex. We do it all the time with everyone and everything," she continues as a hermaphrodite bends the woman's head down to fellatiate his/her penis.

Morpheus silently walks past the orgy. A hand reaches out and grabs at his groin.

"Hey!...slurp... He..." says the woman as she lets go of Morpheus and begins moaning in delight.

As soon as Morpheus and Etrigan walk by, a leathery demon with red skin swoops down and begins to pull the orgy makers apart. They scream in the agony known to all who have ever suffered from coitus interruptus. Except their screams are more far-reaching. The red demon laughs deep and long. A smile breaks Etrigan's thin lips.

Onwards they walk, past whimpering creatures denied their sexual release. They eventually reach the entrance into the third circle where the truly gluttonous shiver in anticipation of a lunch that never comes. In their hunger, they often attack and cannibalize each other. However, since they are already dead, the remains always reanimate themselves after being consumed. All this is explained to the Dream king as they battle past the insatiable ones.

The attacks are numerous. Stealth is impossible, for these creatures have eyes bigger than their stretched stomachs and possess an incredible sense of smell. They come waddling after the visitors with their talon-like fingers trying to grasp at anything. In their frenzied screaming of "Fresh Meat!!" they begin gnawing at each other. As soon as one crumples under the barrage, the others begin to attack it. Those that are more persistent are dispatched by Etrigan's razor-like teeth and the Sandman's explosive rays that are released from the amulet.

In the fourth circle, they are left to themselves as the Hoarders and Wasters seem to have achieved a symbiotic relationship. Whatever it is that the Wasters waste, the Hoarder is there to pick it up. The area is packed with yuppies who quite easily transcend the labels of their prison. To try and punish them, the Wasters are force-fed tofu and bean sprouts and drive BMW's. The Hoarders have nothing. The guardian demons spend a full-time battle with their minions trying to make sure that each has what the other needs. Plenty of nothing. On this level, the damned are winning, though.

Onward and downward into the fifth circle, Morpheus and Etrigan are set upon by more wretched excuses for former members of humanity... the Wrathful and the Sullen. Each new attack heaps greater and greater blame on the two travelers for their own unearthly demise. Despite the greater urgency of the attacks, Dream grows further composed. Etrigan, however, continues to howl in an almost uncontrollable frenzy. They sustain no damage and take no prisoners.

Past a large Gothic style gateway with a knotted board dangling precariously from a single white nail, Morpheus strides confidently into the sixth circle. The sign welcomes the Heretic.

Etrigan, with his adrenaline burning, glances about furtively looking for more dead flesh to satiate his demon hunger. He gingerly steps through.

"Ah, my Prince, 'tis fair to say, none from here will trouble our way. Since word from above that HE is all, none are sent here as Satan's thrall. They've made their way to Purgatory, why they did is another story. But, tell it I will if you care to hear, I suppose an Endless one can spare a year," grins Etrigan as he wipes away bloodied phlegm from the side of his thin yellow lips.

"No," says Dream as he quickens his step.

The Rhymer frowns slightly and leaps quickly into step beside the Dream. Their steps echo out loudly in the desolate gloom. Even the dirt they walk upon shows no trace of having been trod. Abandoned.

After an age, they come to a gateway whose gate has been ripped out and thrown aside. Some of its bars have been pulled apart. Etrigan flares his nostrils at Morpheus' indifference. They walk along a thin pathway that leads to a great oaken door. A sign in ancient Celtic reads, "SINNER AGAINST GOD, NATURE, ART, NEIGHBOUR, AND SELF." Morpheus tries to open it.

"Cursed liar!! Our way is barred!" screams Morpheus as his facade of coolness is shattered. "If I have to use the power of my amulet and helm together to get us through, I will!"

"If, dear Dream, you stay your power, I'll get you inside for the price of a flower. A better bargain I can not profess - for that is the cost to pass this test." Etrigan raises his pencil thin, hairless eyebrows and waits.

Dream looks at the Demon, and ponders. "For what reason would a demon of Hell require a flower, Etrigan?"

"Though demon I be, I'm part human, you see. Although to deceive is my sacred duty - from a flower, is there not truth in beauty?"

"Very well, Rhymer. Use it wisely. The blood of an innocent was spent on its fabrication," says Morpheus as he pulls a small blood-red flower, about the size of a quarter, from within his cape.

"Pardon my petulance, but there are no innocents," says Etrigan as he snatches the flower. He touches it gingerly with a long talon. He seems to sigh, though Dream is not sure.

"Now the door, Etrigan."

"Yes, yes. No need to fuss. I'll open this door without a roar. Pulling with force won't open it as such. What it requires is a gentler touch." Having said his rhyme, Etrigan stretches a hand to the door and pushes it gently. The door swings noisily open. Etrigan bows his head and sweeps his arms in the same self-important manner in which he first met the Dreaming. He looks for Morpheus to explode. He does not.

"Let us continue, Rhymer. We are almost there, are we not?"

Etrigan says nothing. The sour look on his face is ignored by Morpheus. They walk past into a large garden of brambles and weeds. The trail is almost totally overrun.

Dream walks ahead of Etrigan as the demon stops and sniffs every bush he passes like a cocker spaniel checking his territory. Every little while he bounds ahead quickly catching up, only to fall behind again.

Soon, they come to a small clearing. The trail branches off into three directions.

Morpheus turns to the slackening demon and asks firmly, "Which way is my quest's conclusion?"

Etrigan lifts his shoulders and says, "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe. Catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eenie, menie, minie, moe... Take the one in the middle, it seems likely, I riddle."

Morpheus, once more unaware of Etrigan's joke, strides down the middle path. It is dark down this trail, though nothing obscures the natural hue of Hell from entering this area. Ahead, an endless grove of gnarled, black trees stand. Large feathered vultures with the heads of old women fly overhead screeching. Every so often, one dives down and snatches a leaf from a tree. An anguished cry from within the trees follows.

Morpheus picks up his pace as he nears the Wood of Suicides. Perhaps the term, "forest" would be a better description.

As he approaches the trees, a cacophony of crying and whining and moaning enters Dream's aural canals.

"... nobody ever loved me," wails a near leafless tree. "Lonely," whispers a fully-leafed green tree. "...tened to me." "Pain." Why me? Didn't I suff.." "...ser to Jim." "Forgotten." "Aaaaaaaaaaaaa" "Will you talk with me?" "No one." "..lone." "-sniffle-" "Friend?" "Please." "Fatherrrrrr?"

Morpheus stops in shock. "Fatherrrrrr?" asks a tree again.

"Orpheus?"

"Yessssss."

Morpheus says nothing. He stares at the leaves on the tree.

"Whyyyyy?" croaks the tree trunk.

Morpheus moves on.

"Whyyyyy, Fatherrrrrr??!!!"

Etrigan says nothing. He hasn't noticed that his flower has grown slightly larger as the tree talked to Dream. He follows behind.

\"Whyyyy, Fatherrrrrrrr??!!! Whyyyyyyyy, Fatherrrrrrrr??!!!!" the tree shouts after them.

Morpheus, sensing that the woods are too deep with the souls of the suicides, stops walking and places his hands up to the sides of his helm. It begins to hum. He whispers a throaty name, "Merrrrrrriiiiiiiiiddddddiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh." It begins to echo off unseen walls.

Snapping erect, Morpheus says, "This way. She is here."

They walk past more depressed and moaning trees. "... wronged." "No love." "There is no god." "...st...st...st..." "uuuuuuuhhhhhhnnnnnnaaaaaarrrrrr." "Hello. What's your..." "The pain! The lonli..."

They stop in front of yet another nondescript tree with full foliage. Like all of the trees here, it has ebony bark. Its trunk is knotted and gnarled.

Morpheus bends down and crouches at the base of the tree. A pale white hand removes the helm from about his head. He shakes his sweat-laced hair as he places the helm quietly on the bare ground. Etrigan watches intently a few metres back.

"Meridia? It is I, Morpheus."

The tree says nothing.

"Meridia? Please answer me. I have come to ask you a question."

"Baaaaastaaaaard," moans the tree softly.

"Why did you kill yourself in my world?" asks Morpheus nonplussed at the cutting remark.

"Baaaaastaaaaaad," whispers the tree again in its throaty voice. The sound comes from no specific orifice, but rather emanates from the soul contained within the wood.

"Why?"

"Baaaaastaaaaard."

"She can not speak much - forgive her pride. She is but a new suicide. 'Tis clear from her word that she detests your presence, so perhaps help from above will alleviate that hence," says Etrigan.

Morpheus looks up and sees the Hellish sky filled with circling Harpies. He reaches for his helm and places it back upon his head. With it, he beckons two of the foul workers to at least come and meet him.

They swoop down toward the unblinking Dream Lord with electrifying speed, and perch themselves atop a pair of trees beside Etrigan. The Harpies resemble large vultures in every way but the head. There, they posses the form of a different but equally ugly and miserable looking hag. Their eyes flash with brilliant hatred at having been convoked by another-worlder.

"I am the Dream Weaver. I have summoned you to do me a favour."

"We do no favours for one such as you," snarls the Harpy closest to Etrigan.

"Then do your job. Rend the leaves from the trees," says Morpheus.

"We do it at our Lord's leisure. Not our own. The tree I sit upon," continues the other hag, "was once a singer who committed spiritual suicide on one of his songs. Our Lord Satan says we may not eat his leaves, for to hear his suffering must be nothing to what a creative person like him must now feel - unable to express himself. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha."

The first harpy joins in on the laughter that sounds like sandpaper being rubbed against a cement block.

"Very well, foul ones. I have done you the courtesy of asking for a boon, and it has been refused. Now you will do as I command without choice!"

Without another word, Morpheus concentrates his will into the helm and forces the Harpies to begin tearing the leaves from the tree that is Meridia. Almost immediately, Meridia begins to scream in excruciating pain.

"Aoooooooww.. Hurts... Bastard...... The pain. Make it stop.... Keep away from me...Morpheus... Bastard... Please... Aaaaaaahhhuhhuhhhhuhhhhhuhuuuh. Ahuhhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuh."

Morpheus watches silently as her pleas of anguish give way to cries of pain. He causes the Harpies to fly up into the sky. They do and continue to circle their tormentor with screams of indignation. Morpheus pays them no attention as he once again removes his helm and stares intently into the unliving wood.

"Why, Meridia?"

"Why? Why?! You dare ask me why?!!! You bastard! Ahuhuhuhhuhhhh! You drove me to this! You caused my sanity to snap! You did this to me! You! You! You!!" she screams. "Ahhuhuhhuhuhh. Ahuhhhuhuuhh."

Morpheus watches patiently while Meridia cries. He gives no outward indication of emotion. And, when he finally deigns to speak, his voice is of an even timber. "I do not know what you mean. I.. I cared for you. When you visited my home, did I not show you delights unthought off?"

"Ahuhhhuhhhh. Ya-ya-ya-yes. Yes! Yes!! Ahuhhhuhhh -sniffle- ... but... then you changed... snnnnniiifffff."

When Morpheus offers no response, she continues. "You raped me. You raped my body in my mind which raped my will to conceive emotional thought. Ahhuhhhuhhhh. Your prim and proper demeanour is now perfectly situated in Hell!... Bastard! Aahhuhhuhhhuh-huhh-Huhhhuhhh-HUHHHH!!!"

Etrigan thinks he sees a momentary appearance of emotion on Dream's pasty complexion... but he's not sure.

"Why do you say these things? I treated you as I have treated no other mortal. I treated you as my QUEEN. I did nothing to hurt you. It is not within my power to hurt you.. it is not within my desire to hurt you," explains the Sandman.

'Is the Dream King glowing? I have no way of knowing,' asks the rhyming demon to himself.

Meridia continues to cry tears of pain and anguish. Morpheus continues to stare at her.

"Dream King you should not pout," begins Etrigan.

"Silence!!!" snaps Morpheus. "Cease your idiotic prattling!"

"... in this situation there's no need to shout," finishes Etrigan quietly. With that he turns, kicks a tree with his taloned foot and begins to sing "Soul kitchen". But softly. Very softly. "Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen..." Nearby a tree ripe with leaves, shakes.

"Meridia?" calls Morpheus softly.

She continues to sob quietly.

"Meridia... please believe me when I say `I never harmed you.' Tell me what has happened to you... please. I would not waste my time finding you, if I already knew."

"It's -sniff- less than you deserve, but -sigh-..."

Meridia begins to recount her dreams with the strange black bird leading her to the dream world, and her subsequent living nightmares up until she is about to kill herself. Morpheus halts her there.

"That part, I am aware of... Meridia?" he says as he touches the tree with a long white finger, "In the Dream, we have no guides to lead one to our world. We do have guides, like my Raven, Matthew, who will help you once you are in my realm, but that is all.'

Meridia is silent.

"I believe I know what has happened. Good-bye Meridia. I shall see you again soon." He quickly places the helm upon his head as he stands up. He quickly flies high in the air past the startled Harpies.

"Morpheus?... Morpheus??! Morpheus??!!" screams Meridia from below.

Etrigan looks up from his sulky stroll and sees the Dream King disappear up into Satan's fetid mist. A small "Uh-oh" escapes his thin lips.


-30-

Did you like my 7th Circle of Hell - The Heretic… it's empty because God said that God was every God… therefore none could worship false idols. It makes sense to me especially if one thinks that God created everything.

Still... Etrigan says the former lost souls went from Hell to Purgatory, rather than straight up to Heaven. While Etrigan offers to tell the story, and Sandman refuses to hear it, 25 years later I propose that I must have had a reason for suggesting they went to Purgatory. I would assume (if Dante's Divine Comedy is the model) that those who worshiped so-called false idols must have made disparaging remarks to other gods, religions or practitioners. As such, penance is required... and after the appropriate number or eons have passed, they may ascend to Heaven and reap their eternal reward. That's what I think... it's possible I wrote the lines in 1992 and assumed that should I be able to take over the writing chores on Sandman from Neil Gaiman that I would eventually come up with a story from that dream thread even though I had none then. That sounds like something I would have thought. Sigh.
  
Within the Wood of Suicides, there's one half jumble of line: "...ser to Jim."

Fully, that's "one step closer to Jim Morrison", a line my high school bud Brad Neirgarth once uttered to me (we were waiting for a train in the Toronto subway as teenagers - wow... I can remember that?!) about what he would want written on his tombstone. Brad was a Doors fan, and along with Doug McIntosh (see previous chapter) helped me break on through to the other side. Just remember… there is the known… and the unknown… and in between are the doors. I believe the group took their name from that statement by Aldous Huxley. Ya learns stuff from the strangest places, don't we?

By the way… the singer of which the Harpies spoke… that was Jim Morrison… which was why the tree shook when one of his songs (Soul Kitchen) was being sung by Etrigan.

Why is Jim there? He's there in Hell because I believe that Heaven and Hell would have warped sensibilities… and sometimes what we think is good isn't - because of some as yet unrepealed cosmic law… Jim killed himself with drugs.

As for why Morpheus' son is in this level of Hell... it is the suicide area... and it was noted he died in a one-book Sandman special that I picked up in Tokyo... It was added to show that Morpheus loves life and has no time for those who throw it away. It's a harsh statement, but it fits with the character who seems to be afflicted with ego... how the actions or inactions of others affect Him. 

Romance is dead,
Andrew Joseph

2 comments:

  1. So many interesting layers. That's what I like about you ... (Sorry -- couldn't help myself ...)

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, yeah... Keep on whispering in my ear. Tell me all the things that I wanna hear... :)

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