Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer:
And so the new millennium dawned; that moment that Barker had written about, both directly and indirectly throughout the 1990’s. The new decade brought a fresh impetus and a new focus for Barker as he eschewed the epic for quicker, more linear books. This is hardly surprising, given that much of his time from here on would be dedicated to the Abarat series of books for children and young adults. Abarat is a much more ambitious project than it would at first appear on first glance. Each book incorporates illustrations which exist as canvases that Barker created himself. Some of these pages are huge, and take many hours to paint. The books are written around the paintings, so one cannot exist without the other. It is the work which still occupies Barker today, and 19 years on is still incomplete.
He did not turn his back on writing for adults. 2000 brought us Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story. This is one of Barker’s most straight forward works, and bears some relation to Weaveworld. Where one is about a world within a rug, the other contains a world contained within the tiles of a mosaic. Really, though, Coldheart Canyon is a scathing critique on the machinations of Hollywood, and all of those who circulate in its world. Fans do not escape Barker’s cynical eye here either, with a comment on the dangers of toxic fandom. The book is also coloured in some way by the death of his father in 1999, a man with whom Barker had an often difficult relationship, but the grief he felt from his loss was profound. After his death, Barker rewrote swathes of the book and made it something a little less scathing than it was, if that could be believed.
It was also this event which spurred Barker on to write the Abarat series, without a contract or any guarantee that there would be any publisher interest in it. Life, Barker had concluded, was too short.
The story opens with a man at the vet with his sick dog, Dempsey. The animal has been with the man for many years, and is his only true friend in the world. The animal has been with the man through his triumphs and his tribulations, and now the man must be with him. The vet has no choice but to operate on the dog, but he doesn’t make it and the man is devastated by the news. He sits in the vet’s office and people pass by not recognising him, a situation that would bother him on any other day.
Todd Pickett is a blockbuster action movie star on the wane. His all-American good looks are in decline, with wrinkles beginning to line his face. He is being overtaken by younger men, 21st century boy toys who are taking his roles and appearing on billboards that once were his. There is a way back to the top for Pickett, the head of Paramount assures him. He has taken the man’s advice and the business card of a surgeon that he recommended highly. Pickett was desperate to get back to the top, to get his fix of adulation that only life on the red carpets can offer, and so he has been for cosmetic surgery. Sadly for Todd, the surgeon wasn’t the professional that the mogul asserted that he was. Chemicals used in the surgery have reacted badly and left Pickett scarred, and so he has to retreat into the hills. Pickett’s agent locates a house in the hills above Hollywood where her client can escape to recuperate, while he plans whatever future he may have.
The house is perfect for Pickett’s needs, and has its own storied history. It was first owned by forgotten silent movie star, Katya Lupi, and had hosted some of the biggest, most notorious parties of the time. It was precisely what Todd needed, a secluded mansion where he could get over the tragedies that had beset him. He moves in, his agent tells him she no longer wishes to represent him anymore… and the story begins.
In the basement of the house, there is a secret. During the pomp of her fame, Katya and her own manager return to her homeland of Romania. As she visits with family, her agent, Zeffer, visits an abbey in the area and looks over some artifacts that the abbot has for sale for his client’s new home. All he sees among the brick-a-brac is rubbish and banality, but he takes the tour and feigns interest. The abbot sees that the man is looking for items more interesting and takes him down into the bowels of the abbey, showing him still more object d’art. Zeffer is growing bored, but when he enters the basement room he does see something that piques his interest. Hidden by the proliferation of detritus in the room there is a treasure: a tiled mosaic which decorates the walls, ceiling, and even the floor. Zeffer cleans a portion of the wall and sees art of precision, erotic beauty which is captivating and precisely what Katya is looking for. He makes the abbot an offer, but the man is reluctant to sell. The art has a terrible story attached to it – a story of murder, betrayal, magic and curses. Undeterred, Zeffer offers more money and the abbot is finally persuaded. Work begins to map the walls and number the tiles as they are removed from the room. Diagrams are drawn to ensure that the wonder is recreated to the finest detail when it is installed in Katya’s pleasure palace.
When Todd moves in to the place, he is disturbed from his sleep by the sound of movement in the place. He investigates, but finds nothing. In the cold light of day, he wanders around the grounds of the mansion and explores the place. On those explorations he comes across a summer house and steals inside. He finds that the place is being lived in, and resolves to evict the tenant as soon as he can find them. That night, the tenant pays him a visit. She steals into the bedroom and introduces herself. Not only is Katya Lupi alive, she hasn’t aged a day in the decades since she was a star. In the days to come, she shows Todd the wonders of her palace… and the horrors, too. The grounds of the house are haunted by the spirits of those who had partied there, and they have carried on the revelry. Around every corner Todd sees the stars of the golden era of Hollywood, all engaged in some erotic pursuit. Once the exploration is complete, Katya shows Todd her secret… the Devil’s Country. She takes him down to the basement and shows him the mosaic room. Todd steps into the room, the door is closed behind him, and the magic takes hold. Instead of a room, Todd finds himself in another world with different skies above him and strange ground under his feet. The place invigorates his senses, and soon he is hooked. Before Todd leaves the room, he is Katya’s completely.
Tammy Lauper is the president of the Todd Pickett fanclub, his number one fan. In her home she has a room dedicated to his image, with posters, signed photographs, and a life-size stand-up of him. She updates her followers on Pickett’s work and even his private life. It is a role which often puts her at odds with the actor’s PR people and management. Now is no different as Todd’s disappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed and Tammy calls his people to get some information on his whereabouts. She is stonewalled, blanked, and her calls are ignored. With nothing else to do, she boards a plane and flies to Hollywood to see what is happening for herself. She investigates around Pickett’s associates, and eventually finds her way to Coldheart Canyon and the dream palace.
She parks a little way up the hill from the mansion’s gates and shimmies over a wall, delving into the dense overgrowth of the grounds. Soon she encounters monsters, the ravening offspring of ghosts and animals. She is chased through the gardens and finally reaches a clearing where she is surrounded, sure that she is about to meet her end. Instead, she is rescued by Zeffer. He has lived in the grounds of the mansion since the “death” of Katya Lupi. With some persuasion, he agrees to take Tammy to the house. He hesitates at the threshold, but she persuades him inside. They search the house, but there is no sign of Pickett or Katya.
Zeffer is tremulous, afraid in case his former mistress returns. Tammy takes a few moments to collect herself (which includes a huge slice of cherry pie) and Zeffer tells her the story of the Devil’s Country. The story went that Duke Goga loved hunting, and one day he came across the son of Lilith running through his woods. Mistaking him for a goat, he hunted the child and caught it, killing him with his sword. As the child lay dying, his mother arrived… closely followed by his father. The devil saw what had become of his son, and condemned Goga and his men to hunt forever. They would hunt the Devil’s Country until they caught his son and returned him back to him. Those were the men that Tammy had seen on her visit to the Devil’s Country, and they were always so close, but never quite caught the boy. At last they go down the stairs and come to the door which contains the mosaic. They hear a commotion and Tammy attempts to open the door, but it is stuck. Todd calls from inside the room, and together they manage to get the door open before the horsemen get to Todd and Katya. Todd recognises Tammy instantly, and unfortunately, Katya recognises Zeffer. She flies into a rage and attacks Zeffer, beating him like an errant dog. She had banned him from the house many years ago, and his presence offends her beyond measure. She kicks and slaps him several times before Tammy can intervene, but Katya hits her hard and almost knocks her unconscious. Finally Katya picks up the old man and pitches him into the Devil’s Country, right into the path of Goga and his horsemen. Taking Zeffer’s sudden appearance as an attack, he thrusts his sword through the man and looks toward the door.
Todd drags Tammy up the stairs and back into the kitchen, her eyes constantly drawn back again and again to the sight of the Devil’s Country. Finally she comes back to herself, just as Katya arrives in the kitchen.
Tammy makes for the door, noticing that Todd’s hand has slipped from hers. He has a choice: to stay in the house with the woman he has just witnessed commit a murder or go with his number one fan and return to the rational world. He is momentarily confused by the choice before him, but there comes a banging from the basement which makes up his mind. He needs to get away from the house and the craziness. He follows Tammy out of the house and back to the real world. They escape to her car and make off down the hill, but one of the hybrid children steps into the road. Tammy mows it down, much to Todd’s horror at the sight of the malformed creature. She speeds off down the hill and back to Hollywood, to her hotel room.
As the evening comes on, over food the pair discuss their options. Todd needs answers for all that he has witnessed in the mansion, and the only place to get them is from his agent. The pair resolve to go to her condo in Malibu and shake the answers from her if necessary.
Meanwhile, Jerry Brahms is contemplating suicide in his apartment in Hollywood. Jerry is a hanger-on, one of those people who follow the town and worships its very existence. He is single, ageing, and dying of prostate cancer. He has had several relationships in his life, but none of the men he has had romantic entanglements with over the years have stuck. He has no family, his parents long since dead and a sister who died far too young. He does not fear death, but neither does he welcome it. On the bad days, which are coming more and more frequently as his incurable cancer grows inside him, he seriously considers suicide and has collected enough sleeping pills to do the job for the eventuality. Something keeps him alive, though, even in the worst of days. He has a sense that his story is not over, that there is a chapter yet to be written and he must see it through. He doesn’t know what that chapter might hold, just that he must stay alive to see it happen.
He falls asleep and has a dream about Katya Lupi, a woman that near-adopted him as a child. The dream distresses him, Katya in such a state following Todd Pickett’s desertion. He wakes, wondering whether he should go to her or if siding with her would mean the end of him. Of course, curiosity mixed with loyalty and he knew he must drive up the Canyon and see his lady.
When he arrives at the mansion he is surprised to see that he is expected. Katya leaves the sanctuary of her home and gets into his car. It has been many long years since Katya Lupi has been abroad in the world, which made this a momentous evening. She asks Jerry if she knows where Todd will be, and Jerry takes a wild guess. His old agent is holding a party at her Malibu condo, and Todd Pickett is sure to be there. So it is that Katya Lupi leaves her estate and enters Hollywood for the first time in three quarters of a century.
Todd and Tammy arrive at the house of his agent, drawing curious stares and sneers from all gathered at the party. These people are the A-listers that Pickett is used to being around, but now they treat him like a leper, like proximity to the waning star might infect them too. They stare at the scarring which disfigures his face, and the overweight woman he has on his arm. The pair wandered through to the rear of the house. Todd knows that his former agent will be on the patio holding court. Sure enough, she is there with several A-listers… including the man that caused Pickett’s problems in the first place. Todd leaves Tammy to have the confrontation with his manager, going down onto the beach to speak privately. Meanwhile, Eppstadt, the Paramount executive, orders for Tammy to be thrown out by security. Faye Dunaway comes to her rescue, and Tammy goes outside to keep an eye on Todd and Maxine, his agent.
While all this is going on, Katya Lupi and Jerry Brahms arrive at the house. The crowds part for her, captivated by the beauty of this newcomer into their midst. Katya basks in the glow of adulation as they move through the house in search of her paramour.
The argument on the beach quickly lurched from Todd’s demands for an explanation of Coldheart Canyon to recriminations over the near-death of his career. In turn, Maxine spat back in his face the difficult task it had been to represent Todd Pickett at the height of his fame: the ridiculous demands he’d made on her time and the sordid secrets she’d kept from the press. Back and forth they went while Tammy looked on and a crowd gathered on the porch of the house. Todd notices Eppstadt on the porch and rushes toward him, grabbing his leg and trying to drag him through the bars of the fence in a ridiculous scene of rage. Security tries to prize his finger from the man’s leg, threatening to hurt him if he doesn’t let go. Just then, as the scene is about to take a turn toward the farcical, Katya shows up on the beach next to him. He looks at her, at her smile, at her heart-melting beauty, and follows her down the beach. No one tries to stop them as they walk into the water and Todd picks the woman up. There are no screams, no shouts of shock as the pair disappear into the night. Tammy can only watch as the searchlights from coast guard helicopters scan the surf and the night drifts on.
Meanwhile, Jerry Brahms explains to the stupefied Maxine and Eppstadt that the woman they saw was Katya Lupi. They cannot believe that the young, beautiful woman was Katya; she would surely be well over a hundred. All Brahms can say by explanation is, “That’s Coldheart Canyon.” The man is unmoving, positing the notion that they had witnessed the apotheosis of a suicide pact between the two. Todd had been hurt by both Eppstadt and Maxine, after all, his career ended and his agent turned tail and abandoned him – surely they both should take some measure of responsibility for the seeming deaths they had witnessed?
Eppstadt insists on seeing Coldheart Canyon himself, in putting to bed any notion that the woman he had seen was Katya Lupi. He preferred to believe that this was all a ruse to get Pickett’s career back on the rails – what better than a death rumour to get his name in the papers and magazines? He insisted on seeing Coldheart Canyon, and that Maxine, Jerry Brahms, Maxine’s assistant, Sawyer, and a waiter named Joe would go along with them. So it was that the five, Eppstadt armed with one of Maxine’s guns, took a trip up into the hills to the dream palace.
They arrived at the place, Joe wondering at the size and opulence of the mansion. They put on all the lights and began a search, but an earthquake struck before they got far into the house. Maxine and Sawyer bolted out of the house, while Eppstadt ordered the others to stay inside until the earthquake subsided. It passed and Eppstadt went to the door in search of Maxine, but comes face to face with some of the ghosts of the Canyon instead. One of the ghosts grabs him, trying to draw him into the gardens and imploring him not to go back into the house, but he pulls away and retreats back inside. Joe appears then, seconds too late to see what Eppsadt has seen, and the pair go to the kitchen where Brahms splashes water on a wound to his head. Again, Eppstadt demands answers to who the people in the yard are and why they are in the grounds at all. Brahms explains that they are the ghosts of Katya’s friends and lovers, but Eppstadt still will not believe the evidence of his own eyes. Just then he hears wind and horses hooves coming from the basement. Taking the sounds as those of a television, he orders Brahms to turn off the faucet so he can hear the sounds better. Sure enough, he hears the sounds of wind and horses hooves coming from the basement. Brahms tells Eppstadt and Joe about the Devil’s Country,that the place is why the ghosts are still around and that it is dangerous. He theorises that the earthquake has blown the door to the Country open, and that it must be closed. With typical executive bravery, Eppstadt delegates Joe the task of going to the basement to close the door, implying that he will help the young man to become the next Ed Norton if he does as he’s ordered. It took too long for Joe to return from his trip into the bowels of the dream palace, and Eppstadt started to get jittery. He stood at the top of the stairs, listening for sounds of movement. The sounds of horses’ hooves have grown fainter, but the wind was still audible. Brahms warned Eppstadt not to go down the stairs, and Jerry refused to go down there himself. It was then that Eppstadt surprised Jerry Brahms, saying that he should never have sent Joe down. It seemed that the dream palace even had the power to change a man like Eppstadt.
Brahms leaves Eppstadt at the basement door and goes upstairs to search. He goes straight to the bedroom and finds Todd and Katya asleep in the bed, entwined together. He leaves them to their slumber, unable to blame a woman of such long life in wanting to find comfort in the arms of a man who loved her.
Eppstadt finally found the courage to go after Joe and headed down to the basement. He had gone two steps when an aftershock hit, dust and small stones raining down on him from above. He went down, seeing a door lintel above him through the gloom. He peered into the room, seeing nothing but darkness. He fumbled, like so many before him, for a light switch and found none… but soon enough the delights and wonders of the Devil’s Country revealed itself to him, and he was lost.
While all this is going on downstairs, Todd wakes up and hears their voices. He gets out of bed and dresses, creeping over to the door and figuring out how he might escape with Katya. He had hoped that he would have time to search the place and get rid of any incriminating evidence – the several reams of photographs that Katya had saved from her revelries – before the vultures swooped in. That opportunity was denied him now, and there was nothing to be done but escape. He goes over to the window when he hears shouts from the gardens, and sees Maxine’s assistant, Sawyer, running through the garden and screaming for Maxine’s help. Todd scans the grounds and sees Maxine on top of one of the cages, holding a gun and shouting directions to her assistant. Sawyer comes to a clearing and Todd sees his pursuer for the first time: one of the hybrid children. He watches as Maxine tries to direct Sawyer, but it is a lost cause. Soon enough, the hybrid pounces on its victim. Maxine shoots it, but it’s too late for Sawyer. Other hybrids descend on the man’s corpse, tearing him limb from limb, allowing Maxine to escape. Once the show is over, Todd turns back into the room and gives Katya a kiss as she sleeps.
Meanwhile, Tammy Lauper has arrived back at the pleasure palace. It had been tempting to just return to her hotel, pack up her things and go back home, but instead she’d come back up the hill. She waits outside the gates, steeling herself for what she might find when she enters the grounds before she finally steps through.
In the Devil’s Country, Eppstadt finds Joe up a ladder, trying to free a crucified man from his torture. Birds are already flocking in the branches, and Joe asks Eppstadt to get him a stone, which he uses to throw at the carrion birds. All the time Eppstadt is beseeching Joe to leave the man – he is beyond help and they needed to get out of the Devil’s Country. Joe refuses, determined to get the man down. Soon enough, leaving is an option that is taken away from them. A hideously deformed boy approaches and tells them to leave the man where he is. Joe has almost got him down and refuses to leave him hanging there. The boy insists that they leave the man where he is, that his mother had put him there for the crime of refusing to sleep with her. Still, the men refuse to leave the crucified man. Finally the man comes free. Both fall into the thicket at the foot of the tree and traps Joe on cruel thorns which pierce his flesh. He implores Eppstadt to help him, but the Paramount chief has seen two snakes emerge from wounds in the crucified man’s chest. He retreats, but the boy reaches in and pulls Joe from the thicket, flaying his back in the process. The boy watches the freed, crucified man die and pitches a tantrum, slashing Joe’s throat with a kick from his sharp hooved feet. Eppstadt is left alone with the two dead men as the boy goes off about other mischief.
Tammy Lauper has made it to the house and found Jerry Brahms at the top of the basement steps. She looks down and sees a man’s form at the bottom of the steps. Despite Brahms’ warnings for her not to go down, she has to help the man – it is Zeffer, and he isn’t dead. She goes down, making sure not to look into the room containing the Devil’s Country. Zeffer tells her that Goga’s men are coming on their hunt, and that they can probably get out. He implores her to let the dead into the house. He explains to her that he went back to Romania after the Devil’s Country had been installed in the pleasure palace, and one of the brothers in the abbey had shown him a way to keep the dead out. Tammy had to undo what Zeffer had done. She tells him that she’s going to get help, but he refuses and tells her to get to work undoing the mechanism that he installed before taking his last breath.
As Tammy walks up the steps to do the work Zeffer had asked of her, Todd appears at the door. He asks where Eppstadt went and, when Tammy tells him that the man is in the Devil’s Country, he goes after him. He apologises to Tammy, after his fashion, and disappears through the door. Tammy needs to get Brahms out of the way, not trusting him to stop her from undoing what Zeffer had done out of loyalty to Katya. She devises a plan, telling him she wants to see the Devil’s Country for herself. Brahms warns her that it isn’t safe, but accompanies her down as she approaches the threshold. She thinks that the sight won’t affect her; she resisted its allure once, but finds herself stepping through the door anyway and succumbing to its rapture.
Todd had found Eppstadt looking much the worse for wear. Immediately, the man started haranguing Todd and blaming him for all that had befallen at the mansion. He dragged Todd over and showed him the remains of Joe, while Todd tried to stop Eppstadt from making a scene and attracting unwanted attention. Todd looked down on Joe as a strange lizard came creeping out of the undergrowth, intending to make a meal of the waiter. Eppstadt threw a rock at the lizard in an attempt to stop this desecration of Joe’s corpse, but the lizard simply hissed at the two men. Todd dragged Eppstadt away in a bear hug before the lizard decided to attack, and when Eppstadt stopped struggling against his grip, he let him go. Immediately, Eppstadt took to slapping at Todd, his strikes coming harder and harder, before Todd retaliated. Pretty soon, they were rolling around in the mud like children.
Tammy watched all of this and started advancing on the pair, Brahms in her ear all the way, advising her against stepping any further into the Devil’s Country. She ignored him and split the fight up, but Eppstadt was still intent on a fight. He turned on Tammy, calling her names and telling her that Todd would never sleep with her. Her blood boiled, and she went to hit him but was stopped by Brahms. Instead, she took one of Eppstadt’s shoes that had come off in the fight with Todd and threw it into a thicket. Todd, Brahms, and Tammy turned to leave, but Eppstadt delved into the thicket to retrieve his shoe. There came a mewling sound from deep in the bushes, and then the goat-boy leapt out, pulling thorns from his hide where he’d been snagged, crying in pain.
Tammy had turned to leave with the others, eager to leave before Goga’s men arrived, and who were already bearing down on them, but the sounds of the goat-boy’s weeping made her turn. When she turned, the boy stopped crying, suddenly more interested in Tammy… or rather, Tammy’s breasts. She recognised the boy as Lucifer’s child, and Tammy had heard the story of the hunt; she wondered whether she might bring it to an end. She felt his gaze on her breasts and moved to unbutton her shirt. He growled when she moved her hands away, so she knew she was on the right track. All the while, she was watching the progress of Goga’s hunt. The horsemen were nowhere to be seen, and the devil-child was becoming impatient. At last, he charged at her and she let her shirt fall open. At the sight of her breasts, the boy stopped his charge and crawled into her arms. He worshiped at the altar of her chest, suckling on her nipples as the Duke’s men approached. He raised his head long enough to tell the men to stop creeping, he knew that they were there. He then did a strange thing: he asked Tammy if he should give himself up. Tammy said that he should, and so he acquiesced… as long as she would give him a kiss. This she did, and the devil-child leapt from her arms, but not quick enough to stop the Duke’s men from catching him and shutting him in a crate. She watched as the devil-boy’s arms snaked through the bars of the crate and crabbed one of Goga’s men; his fingers inserted into an eye-socket and began shaking him. Goga drew his sword and brought it down on the boy’s wrist, severing the hand. The Duke wiped the blood from the blade and sheathed it, even as the ground started to shake. Todd and Eppstadt took the rumbling as another earthquake, but Tammy knew better… Lilith was coming for her child.
The ground opened up and there she was, the Queen of Hell herself. She approached the men and told them that the hunt was over if they handed the boy over. At this, Eppstadt intervened, telling them that the bargain wasn’t a fair one and that death awaited them as soon as Lilith had the child. Todd tried to stop him, but Eppstadt was suddenly convinced that this was all a dream. The Duke nodded at Lilith, pointing his sword at Eppstadt and driving him backward. Lilith took her child and handed him over to her handmaidens, then nodded at Todd, Tammy, and Brahms, dismissing them. Eppstadt refused, deciding that Lilith was a memory of a young starlet he might have met and forgotten.
Tammy, Todd, and Brahms made their getaway, leaving Eppstadt to whatever fate he had chosen. Looking up, Brahms saw that the sky was changing, the sun moving across it. “Things will change quickly now,” he said.
While Tammy, Todd, and Brahms were ending the hunt in the Devil’s Country, Katya had awoken and heard what was going on in the basement beneath her. She understood that there were trespassers in her house, and she flew into a rage. She didn’t understand just yet the implications of the trespass, but she wanted these people out.
Tammy sees Katya as she climbed the stairs from the basement, standing at the top of the stairs and glowering down at them. Brahms tells her that everything is over, that the Devil’s Country is gone, but Katya doesn’t believe him, much less that it was Tammy who ended the hunt. She pushes past them and descends the stairs. Brahms urges Tammy to leave, explaining that the room was Katya’s fountain of youth. Tammy cannot leave though… not yet. They hear Katya’s shriek of rage, and then the woman appears. She demands that Todd take Tammy, that she has to die, but he doesn’t make any move either way. As Tammy starts to make her escape, Brahms standing in Katya’s way, she hears Katya attacking him. She turns and watches the assault. Deciding that this man won’t end the same way as Zeffer had, she intervenes. It is too late – Katya pushes Jerry Brahms down the steps and he lay unconscious at the bottom. Tammy retreats into the kitchen as Katya orders Todd to catch her. There is a short debate as Tammy tries to convince Pickett to go with her, but he believes that Katya is all he’s got left now that his career is in ruins. Despite all that Katya has done, despite the true face that she has shown, he is still pathetically in love with the woman and will not leave. Tammy starts to search through drawers as Todd begs her to leave, but she tells him to close the basement door and keep Katya out. Amazingly, he does this and Tammy finds a knife. Her plan isn’t to kill Katya, oh no, she has other work to do. She rushes to the kitchen door, finds the icons that have been driven into the threshold and begins to pry them up. She struggles to remove them, but one by one the icons come free as the exiled ghosts watch on hungrily. Tammy is on the last icon when she hears a squelching sound and Todd ask what she’s done. When she turns to see what is happening, she sees Todd staggering into the room with blood staining his shirt and trousers. Apparently Katya has stabbed him, but he tells Tammy to continue her work. She watches as Katya appears, but Todd takes a pitcher from an alcove and hits Katya. He only hits her shoulder, and the effort costs him his last reserves of energy. He falls. Tammy turns back to her work, levering up the last icon with all her might, but it won’t come. At last she hears more violence behind her and a groan from Todd… Katya has used her knife on him again. Tammy works with still more urgency, feeling Katya’s breath on her neck. At last, Katya grabs a fistful of hair and pulls Tammy’s head back, but the work is done. Too late, Katya realises what Tammy has done as the ghosts rush over the threshold and force her back into the house.
Tammy gathers herself together and goes to check on Todd. He isn’t in a good way, losing a lot of blood and losing his grip on life. Maxine enters from her encounter with the hybrids in the gardens, seeing Todd and rushing to his side. Both women minister to Todd’s injuries, imploring him to hang on as Maxine calls for an ambulance.
Tammy leaves the two alone and goes back to the basement. She passes the unconscious Brahms at the bottom of the steps and checks on the Devil’s Country. The room, when she enters, is now just a room. The tiles have lost their glamour, the colours bleached and faded. As she is leaving she hears an approaching tumult, and a cloud appears at the end of the corridor. The ghosts are in a rage at the loss of the magic room, tearing around the house and destroying anything in their path. Tammy throws herself to the ground and the ghosts pass over in their eagerness for destruction. She returns back to where Jerry Brahms is laying and rouses him, picking him up and making for the stairs. The pair are climbing when Katya appears again, approaching them with her knife in hand. She advanced on the pair, promising death, and reminding Brahms of how she had raised him up. Brahms implored her to give it up as Tammy told her in no uncertain terms that she was forgotten outside of her fiefdom. Katya raged at the words and lunged at the woman, but she hadn’t noticed that the altercation had drawn an audience. The dead had stopped their mischief-making in the bowels of the house to watch the scene unfolding on the stairs. Now that violence appeared to be ensuing, they stepped in. First by speaking, then apprehending her. She is raised up and thrown into the crowd, where her exiles tore her apart.
Tammy and Brahms climb the stairs and find Todd dead where Tammy had left him, Maxine crying as she paced the floor. Tammy pays her last respects as Maxine bemoans how the media will represent Todd when the truth comes out. Tammy is sickened by the woman’s hypocrisy, and tells her so. Together, the three commit to tell the truth of what had befallen at the Canyon’s pleasure palace and leave the house to its destruction.
The following weeks go by in a haze of investigators and reporters asking questions, but finally Tammy is allowed to leave LA and go home. Her husband leaves her, but she isn’t too concerned. The events at Coldheart Canyon invariably haunt her, until she finally calls Jerry Brahms. They speak about their lives in the weeks since Todd’s death, checking that they’re bearing up. He tells her that one of the investigators had been fired and was writing a book about the mystery of Todd Picket and Coldheart Canyon, and that she might expect him contacting her. Finally Brahms tells her that Katya has given him one final gift: he went into the Devil’s Country with only a few months to live; he had come out cured of his cancer and fit. It really was a miracle.
Maxine was the next to call a few weeks later, trying to contact Tammy over several days. Tammy was suffering some sort of a mental breakdown by then, ignoring the calls or simply telling whoever was on the other end of the line to leave her alone. At last, Maxine gets her to talk and tells her that she has spoken to lawyers and attorney’s to stop the ex-investigator’s book being published. She asks if Tammy has been approached by the guy (she hasn’t), and finally, if Tammy had given any thought to going back to the Canyon. It wasn’t a thought that had struck her, but since Tammy mentioned it…
So it was that Tammy went back to Hollywood and met with Maxine. Together, they went back up to the pleasure palace and began to search the derelict remains of what had once been among the most opulent mansions in Hollywood. Even in such a short time since the events that had undone the place, the vines and creepers of the gardens had begun to invade the place. They moved deeper into the house, splashing through pools of water from burst pipes when Tammy saw a corpse lying face down in the water. It was one of the hybrid children, and it wasn’t the only one. Maxine and Tammy found bodies leading out into the garden, and even more out there. Seemingly the hybrids lives had been forfeit after the destruction of the Devil’s Country and the exodus of the ghosts.
They split up, Maxine going upstairs and Tammy going down. They resolved to make it a quick search, neither particularly happy to be in the Canyon after dark. Maxine went to the bedroom that had been Todd’s and knocked on the door, then tried opening it but found it wedged closed with objects on the other side. She called again, and won a muffled response. It was Todd, back from the dead and saying hello. She pushes on the door and manages to get it open, finding the man himself lying in bed with earth piled on top of him. He tells her that there is a light that appears at night and sits on the roof, and begs her to help him to get rid of it. She promises to do so and goes to find Tammy.
She has gone to the basement to survey the damage there. She descends the steps and find the last few gone to rubble and lying in a heap at the bottom. She jumps down and looks around at the devastation wrought by the violence of the ghosts. Walls are near to collapse, the patter of plaster and masonry reaching her ears as creaks sounded from the upper floors. There is little that she can see outside the pool of light she stands in, and so she turns her back on the gloom and returns back upstairs. When she gets to the top, she sees Maxine standing at the door to the master bedroom. She tells Tammy that Todd is there, and that he is asking for her. She enters and finds him naked, covered in earth, and with a massive erection. He tries to persuade her to stay, to live in the house with him. It’s an invitation that she would have happily accepted once, but now she tells him to cover up as she goes to the wardrobe to find him some clothes. As she picks out some jeans and a t-shirt, there’s a noise from the roof. She rushes back into the bedroom and finds Todd huddled in a corner with a sheet wrapped around him and trembling in fear. He doesn’t know what it is on the roof, but it is bright and it is coming for him. Coyotes start to yowl in the growing darkness, announcing the arrival of Todd’s haunting. It has told him that “all of this is for you,” and presented him with memories, the light has appeared as his mother once, but Todd knew that it was a fiction. He is determined not to go – he knows that it would be a one way journey. He begs Tammy to stay with him, convinced that the light won’t try to get to him I she stays. Just then there is a knocking, and Todd again begs her not to go. Tammy is convinced that it’s just Maxine knocking at the door, but when she goes to the landing and looks out, she sees her walking away from the front door. Maxine heard the knocking and figured it was someone at the door, but when she looks there is light shining through the cracks. It isn’t there any longer, but Tammy goes out onto the step to look for herself and finds nothing untoward, but she could feel it. She looks up, admiring the light shining between the branches of the trees overhead… and then it moves. The light begins to descend toward her, and Tammy is suddenly confronted with an image from her childhood. She watches the scene play out, her aunt opening the door to her house and telling her that her father is at the firehouse. Maxine tells her to look away, but Tammy sees no harm in watching. Maxine tries to pull her away, but she is too rapt by the scene running around and round like a movie snippet. At last, it dawns on Tammy that this might be more than just mere distraction but finds that she can’t turn away. She calls for Maxine to help, but she is no longer there. Tammy panics, trying to remember where she might have gone but her thoughts are in disarray, the memory too demanding. At last she remembers that Todd is upstairs, that he was naked… and the scene juddered, her aunt stuttered over her words. She realises that her mind has offered her a tool to fight this enchantment and seizes upon it, picturing Todd’s cock in her mind’s eye and disrupting the rapture that had been worked upon her. The scene from her childhood gives way to the light and Tammy closes her eyes, lowering her head and turning on her heel. She walks back to the door and closes it behind her, finding Maxine on the stairs sobbing. Todd is there with a gun, and tells them both that it is him the light wants, not them. Tammy tells him that they have two options: give him up to the light, or run. They choose the latter.
The three of them ran from the door to the car, the light watching them every step of the way. They got inside and Tammy got the car started and swung it around, driving at speed to the road. They headed down the winding street back toward town, the light following them. She looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Todd’s anxious face… and then the memory-vision flashed before her eyes again. It was only a split-second, but it was enough to force her off the road and the car smashed into a tree. Tammy fell into the vision, embracing her aunt and sitting down at the table in her house to eat some of her famous meatloaf.
Maxine wakes from unconsciousness and finds Todd there. She looks at the wreckage in the car and asks if Tammy is still in there. He tells her she is, and that the angel is also still there. She looks up and sees it shining through the branches of the trees. He tells her that he has spoken with the light, and that he’s made a promise. He’ll go with it, once his two friends are safe. Maxine lights a cigarette, Todd asking her if she can walk and go for help. She tests her legs and finds that she can walk, and sets off to get help while Todd watches over Tammy.
At last Tammy wakes and finds Todd watching over her. He tells her about the deal he’s made with the light, that it’ll want him to leave pretty soon. Just as he says it, sirens wail on their way up the hill. Todd takes it as his cue to leave and looks to the light. Suddenly he smiles, calling the name of his dog as he disappears. Tammy hears a word spoken by the light, whispered but still audible. It echoes up into the Canyon, and she follows it as she drifts away.
She wakes up in the hospital, surrounded by flowers and well-wishing cards. Maxine has stayed by her bedside for much of her time there, keeping the media vultures at bay. They resolve to leave Hollywood together when Tammy is recovered, and so she sets out with determination on her road to recovery.
When the pair return to Tammy’s house, Maxine is amazed to see the collection of Todd Pickett’s memorabilia that Tammy has collected over the years. Tammy has decided to let it all go, just as she promised Todd’s ghost that she would. She burns everything with Maxine alongside her, feeling the weight dropping from her shoulders as everything smoulders. They have decided to stay together, to watch over each other, to be friends.
Coldheart Canyon was a purging of bad feeling for Barker, a way of saying all of the nasty things he felt about Hollywood and its machinations borne from his decade of experiences. It was a palate-cleanser for him, a cathartic spewing of bad spirits which left him free and open to pursue his next project. It would be something far removed from the horror and dark fantasy that he had built his career on, and would take over his life for the next decade. Oh, other projects would sneak in here and there, but it was time now for Barker to embrace the call that had haunted him since his father’s death. It was time to enter Abarat.
Come back tomorrow for Part 6 of this fantastic retrospective on Clive Barker.
Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.
In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.
In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen Vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. Poor Jeffrey was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.
In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies: Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane, and more.In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue, The Silent Invader, for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.
Paul continues to work on further material.
He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.
You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…
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