So last night I fell asleep reading the new issue of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence.
It’s never a good idea, reading that book before bed. When your brain is tired. Impressionable. About to launch off into several hours’ worth of subconscious meandering. Not because it’s scary, necessarily, but because, especially at this advanced point in the run, I’m keeping so much of its theme and plot and ties to HP Lovecraft biography and bibliography in my head, all of it floating and circling and intertwining, that it penetrates beyond the normal brain/story barriers and gets in deep. It fills my head with ideas that seep into my dreams and guarantee a restless night’s sleep.
This issue, for example (number 9 for those of you keeping track), deals with HP Lovecraft’s terrible lineage, the invisible things all around us that we cannot see, and the idea that the written word is a kind of magic, capable of utterly changing the world over time. Now, you’d think the invisible things would be more unsettling in dreams. But they’re given a literal visualization in addition to their more metaphorical meanings…
…and that, somehow, made less of an impression on my subconscious than the thing about writing being a common method of sorcery. In part, I think that’s because the invisible things that float and flop obscenely all around us is a familiar sort of horror to me, having long since acquainted myself with HP Lovecraft’s “From Beyond,” the story this issue draws its literal horrors from. In fact, the invisible monsters from that story look a lot less weird and terrifying in artist Jacen Burrows’ interpretation than they do in my own head. So, while I like some of the stuff Moore and Burrows do with them, including some bawdy foreshadowing…
…they didn’t burn themselves into my mind as deeply. The writing = sorcery stuff, though… That comes up in the prose “commonplace book” section at the rear of the issue, and by the time I got to that, I was far too sleepy to be reading. I needed to be out of my chair and in bed, blissfully slipping into unconsciousness. But, no. I hit that idea just as sleep really got hold of me, and in that half-conscious state, it seemed fascinating. I mean, it’s something I’ve heard Alan Moore express before, in many recent interviews in which he’s discussed his own study of magic. And I recognized that fact at the time. But in the context of Providence, and all the character, theme, and history floating and flopping around inside my head, it seemed INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. So important that I closed my eyes… just for a minute… to think about it and all its implications.
And so I was lost.
I lay in my chair, feet comfortably propped up, and entered an excited slumber, rolling the idea over and over in my head, pointlessly, for three hours. Then I woke up and finally stumbled off to bed. And that’s when things really got weird.
Once I got back to sleep (which took a while, because my brain was still chewing over that story-as-sorcery concept), I started dreaming that I wasn’t asleep, and that someone was talking in my bedroom, keeping me awake. Talking, in a voice I couldn’t quite make out, but that I was sure was in the process of rewriting reality. Terrified, I opened my eyes (whether for real or in the dream, I couldn’t tell you at this point), but there was nothing there. Nothing visible, anyway. But the voice droned on, still too low to hear. I fell asleep again, then, and when I opened my eyes the second time, there was an old TV at the foot of my bed, the voice coming out of its speakers.
I got up to turn it off, then realized that it already was turned off, the screen black. So I turned it on instead. It took the picture a minute to light up completely, but when it did, I saw two old men sitting on what looked like the set of a PBS talk show from the 1970s.
Suddenly, they stopped talking, and looked straight at me.
Shocked, I hurriedly switched the set off, and the knob came off in my hand. And they started talking again.
Desperate to shut them up, I started tracing the power cord, from the back of the TV, to an extension cord, running out of the bedroom, and into the house I grew up in. When I turned around, I saw my adult bedroom, but it opened up onto the same hallway my childhood bedroom opened onto, and I stumbled down the hall into the living room, where my father was asleep on the couch in front of the TV (as was, and is, his habit in the middle of the night). The extension cord ran along the wall, around the corner… and into the back of the living room television.
Completely terrified now, I grabbed the rotor box (because this was our 1970s TV, with its 1970s rooftop antenna) and, muffling the sound against my stomach so as not to wake up my father, turned it all the way around from Southwest to Northeast, hoping to disrupt the signal from the two old men who, I was now sure, were talking me into the past. I rushed back to the bedroom and fairly leapt back under the covers just as the voices were subsiding, closed my eyes…
And woke up a completely different person. Things get fuzzy at this point. There was a party at some rich family’s house, and there was drugs and booze and sex, and then somebody died, and there was a stuffed toy wearing lederhosen, and I was being stalked by some invisible thing that only existed as a voice, droning on in the dark, and there was a TV, and the knob was broken off, and a woman screamed “HIS HEAD WAS A BALL OF LIGHT!”
And I woke up, sweating.
Took me an hour to get back to sleep, after that. I turned the light on and looked back over Providence #9, figuring it couldn’t brain my damage any worse at that point. And I was right. Reviewing it allowed me to put all its invisible monsters, and its monstrous men with invisible plans to rewrite the world, into their proper context within the story. And out of my head.
Out. Of. My. Head.
Then I went back to sleep, and woke up to my normal life, with my normal job, and my decidedly abnormal obsessions with funnybooks and pulp authors. And a bit of water…
…on the ear.