Monday, 7 December 2015

The Sign in the Moonlight: The Door Beyond the Water

The Door Beyond the Water is at its core another early tale, from the period when I was very much in the thrall of Lovecraft and Poe and Machen and weird tales in general - a time that provided the backbone and impetus for what would eventually end up being The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories.  Like The Facts in the Case of Algernon Whisper's Karma, it first appeared in a brief-lived and little-read market called The Willows way back when, and like The Facts in the Case of Algernon Whisper's Karma it got something of an overhaul before I felt it was ready to stand alongside more recent work.

In the case of The Door Beyond the Water, however, that work had already been done beforehand, and had been a whole lot more comprehensive.  I originally rewrote it when I was approached by editor Eric Guignard to provide a story for his anthology Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations.  (Eric, incidentally, would publish another story from the collection, Prisoner of Peace, in his next anthology.)  I had nothing new to offer him, and as a compromise I offered to revise an older piece under a new title, with the understanding that it would be a substantial enough revision to actually warrant the change of name.  Eric was okay with that, so I went back to the story - it was The Gate in the Jungle at that point - with an excuse to really set about tearing it down and building it back up again, and the goal of having something by the end that I'd feel comfortable setting alongside the kind of stuff I was producing then.

It worked out well, all told.  I was fond of the original, but I think the revision brought the things I liked about it into much sharper perspective.  I said in an earlier one of these posts that the impetus for a lot of these stories to was to write slantwise homages, pieces that stayed true to the weird tales of the early decades of the twentieth century whilst finding new ways into them, in some cases ones that maybe weren't quite so alienating to a modern sensibility.  In that sense, The Door Beyond the Water was me locking horns with the assumptions about race, and about civilization, that are prevalent in so much work from the period.  It's a tale of that classic Victorian educated white chap coming into a situation he doesn't even slightly understand and making one unholy mess of things, basically - and also, now that I think, an excuse for my to play around with some of the shamanism stuff that came out of studying Elizabethan witchcraft for my post-grad degree.

Here, anyway, is an extract:
The message came to him in dreams, before the second moon of the season: A man comes to free the imprisoned one. Nothing more than that.
But for Cha Né - who was shaman, who saw beneath the mystery of things - that sentence was enough to darken his heart with fear such as he'd never known.
The next night he confronted his spirit-guide with the inevitable questions.  "Who is this man who comes? Is he of the mountain people? Is he from the hollow tribe?"  It hardly seemed possible, unless the ancient truces had been somehow corrupted.  "I must know, Shanoctoc."
The feathered guide had hesitated long before answering.  "He is Montague Evans.  He is not of the three tribes, nor of the lands between the water and the mountains.  He is a white man, of the tribe of Henry Johnson.  He will arrive before the third moon."
Then Cha Né’s guide, his one companion in the Otherworld, sank into the waters of the lake - was swallowed amidst shivering liquid tendrils.
Cha Né knew, without knowing how, that it was the last time they would ever meet.

No comments:

Post a Comment