Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer:
1993 was a quiet year on the literary and film-making front for Barker, but that certainly didn’t mean that he was inactive. 1993 was the year that he first displayed his artwork in public, with his first exhibition taking place in March ’93. He was also exploring the possibilities of creating new graphic novels after the successes of Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Tapping the Vein, and other graphic adaptations of his work. Some would meet with success in subsequent years; some would die on the vine. Still, Barker was always moving forward; always looking for the next project.
In literary terms (because Barker is always working on the next books, sometimes two or three at the same time), Barker was close to completing his next major work: the second installment of The Art trilogy, which had begun in 1989 with The Great and Secret Show. Everville was to delve even deeper into the world, theology and metaphysics that he had introduced in The Great and Secret Show, to open up the Metacosm and Quiddity to closer scrutiny and explain its relationship to our world (the Cosm) in greater detail. It was to be another epic work of fantasy, as ambitious in its own way as Imajica was in 1991. In this book, Barker seemed to be in control in a way that he often wasn’t while writing Imajica. If that work almost defeated him, Everville is the work of a writer totally assured in his own skill as a storyteller. Barker was, here in this book, a master of the art with confidence in abundance.
Everville does not follow on from The Great and Secret Show in linear fashion. Like any great history, explaining beginnings often seems to bear little relation to the world we know. So it is that the beginnings of The Great and Secret Show were to be found at the beginnings of the America that we know today; with the pioneers and fathers who birthed the nation.
Everville opens on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800’s, with pioneers searching for new lands to call their own. They set out with the belief that God is on their side and will protect them on their journey, but as the mountains rise around them, the temperature freezes and the snow falls, death, disease, and famine are their constant companion.
On the trail with the pioneers are Maeve O’Connell and her father, Harmon. The O’Connells are a strange pair, with dreams of building a city. It is a dream that they have shared with no one on the trail, but still they are mistrusted and vilified. As the death toll rises and the group lurch from one disaster to another, the O’Connells are blamed for their misfortune and Harmon O’Connell is murdered. Maeve flees into the woods, followed by men with guns to dispatch her. The little girl is protected from the men by a strange, demonic-looking creature, killing several of the men before hiding in the upper branches of a tree. The creature is injured in the fray, and his blood drips onto the ground around the tree. Maeve is famished and turns her head up to the grisly rain, opening her mouth and drinking the creature’s blood. It tastes sweet on her tongue, and invigorates her. Maeve persuades the creature to come down from the tree so that she can see him, and this he does. The sight of him takes Maeve’s breath away, and she falls in love with him instantly. His name is Coker Amiano, and he is in this place to attend a wedding. He leaves, telling Maeve not to watch him leave or follow him; if she disobeys, he will kill her.
Maeve does not listen to Coker’s warning. She peeks through her fingers and watches him leave. Following him up into the mountains, she finds a party in full swing in a cleft in the rocks, with tents erected and much merriment. She sneaks into one of the tents and sees the wedding ceremony in progress, with the bride and groom dreaming a baby into existence. Maeve breathes “beautiful” in her wonder, and her words pollute the ritual and kill the baby being born overhead. Fighting breaks out among the guests as both sides blame each other for the death of the baby and desecration of the ceremony that would have joined two factions and ended centuries of warfare. There is death all around her and Maeve tries to flee. It is Coker who protects her as the survivors kill each other and try to escape through a portal further up the mountain. Coker goes to leave too, but the portal closes too soon and traps his wings. He pulls and rips his wings from his body as the portal shuts and exiles Coker from his own world.
They return to Maeve’s wagon, which has been looted and abandoned by the pioneers who had shunned her, and she nurses Coker back to health. Though much has been taken, Maeve finds the plans for her father’s city, along with a cross that a man named Owen Buddenbaum has instructed her father to bury at the first crossroads in the new city. Maeve and Coker resolve to build the city in her father’s memory, and the city would be called Everville.
In modern times, Everville has grown into a banal, all-American town from the movies. It is a town where nothing momentous has, or ever would happen. Its secrets are kept by the Everville Historical Society, which has covered up the true story of Everville’s origins in favour of more wholesome tales… but the truth remains to be uncovered. Indeed, the truth is under the feet of every citizen who walks the town’s streets… and above their heads in the mountains which cast their shadows over the town.
Everville’s annual town celebration is nearing, and the Historical Society has vowed that it will be the biggest and best fair yet. In any dark fiction tale, this could only mean that something apocalyptic is about to occur… and Everville is no different.
Erwin Toothaker is a lawyer who lives in the town, and he is close to uncovering the secrets that the historical society has kept for over a hundred years. He is a single, straight-laced man who no one remembers and less will miss. So it passes that he returns home to a visitor, who kills him. Toothaker does not simply fade into the long goodnight, however; his spirit remains as he finds himself wearing a jacket he thought long lost, the pockets filled with mementoes from his life. He wanders the town, trying to make sense of his new state when he meets other spirits; the long dead town fathers who haunt its streets.
Phoebe Cobb is the overweight receptionist at the local doctor’s clinic. Her life is one of routine boredom until Joe Flicker shows up in town. The pair strike up an affair, enjoying secret trysts on Phoebe’s dinner breaks, or when she can get out of her marital home on the pretext of running some errand for the historical society. The relationship moves along well, and the pair plan to leave town together. Things turn bad when Joe decides to surprise Phoebe by showing up at her home, but they are caught together by Phoebe’s husband. A fight breaks out and Phoebe kills her husband. Joe flees, injured from the fight, into the mountains. He climbs into the heights and finds the portal into the strange world that exiled Coker Amiano so long ago. Curious, Joe steps over the threshold and into the Metacosm, leaving Phoebe to face the police and the gossip in town.
Nathan Grillo has given up journalism and settle in Omaha, once home of Randolph Jaffe. He has become a recluse, battling the effects of multiple sclerosis as he builds a living database of strange events across the USA which he calls The Reef. He waits and watches the database, forming connections between one event and the next, always searching for The Art.
Tesla Bombeck, unlikely heroine of The Great and Secret Show, has spent the intervening years on the road with Raul in her head. She has grown into a weary traveller, going from place to place simply to experience life. She has grown cynical, despite the power that she knows courses through her body. She returns to the ruins of Palomo Grove, where she finds a small group of people who have heard of the events that have occurred there and turned it into a theology, with Fletcher and Tesla as its deity.
By turns, Tesla is directed to Everville, where she arrives in time for the festival… and the events which are about to unfold on its streets.
Harry D’Amour is a New York private eye who specialises in the demonic, and played a cameo role in the events at Palomo Grove. He has experienced a great many strange things in his career, so is perfectly poised for the events which are about to unfold. He has witnessed a ceremony in a basement in New York, a celebration of strange creatures which descends into a massacre. It is this event which ties D’Amour to the events in Everville, and which brings him back into contact with the Art.
Tesla arrives in town and goes to a diner for coffee, where she draws a reaction from the god-fearing diner owner by her mere appearance. On the streets she hears a voice shouting, but cannot place the voice or hear exactly what it is saying. She tries to follow it, and eventually hears an address. She meets Phoebe Cobb and goes to the address to investigate. Here, the voice whispers into her ear once again; “Kiss Soon,” it says. Tesla breaks into the house, and finds the excretal creatures of old adversary, Kissoon, in the place. Together, the women kill the creatures and return to Phoebe’s house. They drink, and Tesla agrees to help Phoebe to find the missing Joe. Their search takes them up into the mountains, where strange creatures are busy building crosses in the heights. Phoebe sees the portal that Joe has crossed through and she follows, finding herself in the Metacosm, while Tesla is stuck in Everville.
Meanwhile, Joe has travelled throughout the Metacosm with a strange man named Noah. He has seen the inverted pyramid city of b’Kether Sabbat, and seen through the eyes of a creature called Zehrapushu. On a voyage on his travels, Joe falls into the sea and drowns, dreaming of Phoebe as his life ebbs away.
Phoebe finds herself in a strange town called Liverpool as a storm rages in its streets. She is taken to a house owned by a fat, bitter old woman called Maeve O’Connell, who spends her days tearing up letters from a former lover named King Texas. It transpires that Liverpool is Maeve’s city; that she dreamed it into being from memories of the town that she was born in. Phoebe tells Maeve about Everville, and Maeve tells her how that town came into being; that Everville was another town that she dreamed into being… and then was chased out of once it grew. Maeve had built the town around a brothel with her husband, Coker Amiano, and her son, a half breed of Cosm and Metacosm. When children started to go missing from the town, it was Maeve and her family that were blamed and they hung them all… but Maeve had survived and fled into the Metacosm, where she dreamed Liverpool. Now, Maeve O’Connell decided, it was time to remind Everville of its roots.
In the meantime, Tesla has been called away from Everville. As a kind of aside to the main story, Howard Katz and Jo-Beth Maguire have been living on the run since the events in Palomo Grove. They have been happily married, more or less, and had a child, but now Jo-Beth has grown distant from Howard and is having strange dreams. Grillo has agreed to visit them, and Tesla arrives with him. Unfortunately Tommy-Ray Maguire, the Death Boy and Jo-Beth’s twin, is also on the way. In a breath-taking pursuit, Tommy-Ray chases down Grillo and Jo-Beth as Grillo tries to get a reluctant Jo-Beth to safety, causing them to crash their car. Tesla arrives on the scene with Howard and Jo-Beth admitted that she has been having an affair with her twin, and that her child is Tommy-Ray’s. Grillo and the baby are trapped in the car as Tommy-Ray and Howard enact a confrontation which recalls the final moments of Fletcher’s life in The Great and Secret Show, Grillo lies dead with the baby in his arms as, overcome with rage, Howard fires a gun at Tommy-Ray and ignites petrol that has spilled on the road from the crashed car. The petrol ignites, engulfing Jo-Beth in flames. Howard leaps into the flames and dies with Jo-Beth in his arms. Tommy-Ray retreats in grief, enshrouded by his army of ghosts.
Tesla could do nothing at all but watch the tragedy unfold, holding the baby in her arms as her parents did battle. From behind her, Tesla hears a sob and turns to see a trio of children standing a short way away from her: the Jai-Wai, Rare Utu, Yie, and Hahe. They have been haunting her on the road for a time now, and explain that they want to see tragedies unfold before their eyes in return for power. Owen Budenbaum has been their arranger for many years now, but they have grown tired of his brand of entertainment. The Jai-Wai missed the events at Palomo Grove and heard of the tragedies which surrounded her there, and now they want to see, wanted to know. Disgusted, and eager to be away from the grieving Tommy-Ray Maguire, Tesla takes the baby and makes her way back to Everville.
Owen Budenbaum has arrived in Everville to reclaim what is his, a seed planted a hundred years before. Maeve O’Connell had been true to her father’s word and built a town, not quite the city that he had envisaged, and buried the cross at the first crossroads. Over the years, that cross had been gathering power into itself, and Budenbaum had come to collect. Over the days since his arrival he had struck up a casual liaison with a boy named Seth Lundy, a strange soul who heard hammering from the heavens. Tesla’s arrival in the town had proven to be something of a complication, but he would stop at nothing to get what he had sought for so long… the Art. Now, as the day of the festival in Everville arrived, it was time to collect and he will allow nothing to stand in his way… especially not Tesla Bombeck.
In the Metacosm, in the city of Liverpool, the Iad Uroboros had arrived. The Iad was a devouring force which destroys everything in its path. It was no ordinary storm which engulfed the city… it was the Iad. Phoebe Cobb finds herself rescued from the ravages of the Iad by Maeve O’Connell’s sometime lover, King Texas. He is the King of Rock, and he holds Phoebe deep in the ground while chaos reigns on the surface. While underground, Phoebe persuades Texas out of a decades long despair borne of Maeve’s indifference toward him. Phoebe’s words inspire Texas to protect Liverpool from the Iad, and he wounds the seething mass. After the battle, Phoebe finds herself back on the surface and sees the Iad disappearing through the portal that had delivered her into the Metacosm… and she watched as both the portal and Iad disappeared.
On the mountain over Everville, Harry D’Amour has found himself in grave danger. Beings from the Metacosm have gathered at the portal and he has disturbed their devotion and killed their priest. As punishment for his crimes, the beings have readied him for crucifixion. He is tied to a cross when Kissoon appears. After a brief conversation, Kissoon passes him by and proceeds up the mountain and leaves D’Amour to his fate. It seems to him that all is lost as the executioner, the dim-witted Bartho, arrives, but he is struck down with a hammer by a man that Harry does not know. The man, when Harry is freed from the crucifix, is Raul, the ape-boy that Fletcher had created, and who had been resident in Tesla’s head until Kissoon blew him from her mind. Raul now has a body to call his own, and he has come to Everville. The pair watch as Kissoon climbs the mountain and approaches the oncoming Iad, even as the ground turns to liquid and tremors shake the mountain to its roots.
Erwin Toothaker has also found his way up the mountain with the town fathers and has witnessed all that has transpired. As the Iad approach, one of the fathers shouts out and runs toward the portal. The man is Coker Amiano, and he has seen his wife, Maeve O’Connell, striding over the threshold.
As Raul and D’Amour descend down the mountain, Raul hears the voices of the dead screaming at him. They direct him into the trees and there they find the harridan, Maeve. In her own inimitable fashion, she demands that D’Amour carry her down to the town… her town.
Tesla returns to Everville with the Katz baby and arrives at Phoebe Cobb’s place, where she finds Seth Lundy waiting for her, sent by Budenbaum to bring her to him. The baby is unsettled, and Seth offers to help her while they talk. Seth tells her that Budenbaum wants to see her, that he considers her a significant insignificance, but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the Jai-Wai, who again try to convince Tesla to be their agent. After the conversation, she agrees to go and meet Budenbaum at a coffee shop in the town, but on the way they are attacked by a gang of Everville’s good old boys. Seth is beaten and the baby taken by the god-fearing Bosley, but Tesla manages to escape and goes to the coffee shop to meet her adversary.
At the coffee house, Budenbaum and Tesla trade tales. Tesla tells him what she has guessed of his plans, and in return Budenbaum tells her the true tale of Everville, his place in its creation and his purpose. He has spent two centuries trying to set the conditions necessary to acquire the Art, and now he wants it. What he needs is the Jai-Wai, but they have deserted him in favour of Tesla. In return for his help in turning back the Iad, Tesla agrees to bring the Jai-Wai to the crossroads and then get out of town; being a Nunciate, Budenbaum believes that the Art would be conflicted about who to enter if Tesla was there. Tesla agrees to bring the Jai-Wai, and sets out to find them.
As Tesla and Budenbaum are holding their treaty in the coffee shop, Harry D’Amour and Raul have arrived back at the town and are helping Maeve O’Connell to find the place where her whorehouse had stood as Kissoon is descending the mountain with the Iad at his heels. At the same time, Tommy-Ray has arrived in town and found Bosley with the baby that he believes is his. He takes the child from him, even as Seth protests, and disappears into his cloud of tortured spirits with the baby and departs.
At the crossroads, Budenbaum is waiting for Tesla to arrive with the Jai-Wai. He has made his preparations, and now he only needs the divinities to arrive. And arrive they do: Tesla has agreed to their offer to be their new guide in the world, providing that the Jai-Wai themselves tell Budenbaum that his services are no longer required. They approach to tell him, knowing that their decision means an end to his long life, but Budenbaum has a trick up his own sleeve. As they approach Hahe sees something amiss with the road under Budenbaum’s feet and goes to investigate. Instantly, he is caught in the trap that the man has laid. Rare Utu is the next to be caught in the trap, and both are dissolved and turned into light. Yie sees all of this and catches hold of Tesla, the mere touch rendering her immobile. Yie advances on Budenbaum and he too is caught, but his voice and rage unhinges Tesla’s mind and she falls, sinking into the earth as Budenmbaum screams in rage and defeat. As she dies, she sees the medallion and the power that it holds; her last thought is of the cross under Palomo Grove, and the representation of humanities evolution from amoeba to divinity and then back again.
D’Amour, Raul, and Maeve arrive at the crossroads in time to see Tesla fall, and Maeve recognises Budenbaum. She advances on him, demanding answers for all that has befallen her since her childhood… events that he set in motion. Raul stops her and tells her of Coker’s presence, news which softens the harridan, but still she advances on Budembaum. As she speaks to him, ribbons of light begin to play around her hands and coalesce around her, taking form from her memories. The light was rebuilding the whorehouse, down to the finest detail. As it rebuilt itself around her, Budenbaum retreated, unwilling and unable to take the memories being made manifest. While the building is taking place, Maeve talks about the house, her husband, and her son, Clayton. At her words, a realisation hits D’Amour and he makes off to investigate further.
Beneath the road, the medallion is at work on more than just the rebuilding of memories. Tesla has felt herself die, has felt herself putrefying, and turning to dust under the power of the Art. She is aware of the wonders all around her, and understanding what it is the medallion has given her in death.
D’Amour runs through the streets and finds Budenbaum. The defeated man tries to persuade D’Amour to help him, to dig for the medallion. He shows Harry his hands, which he has mangled in the attempt, but D’Amour refuses. Budembaum then threatens D’Amour, and is about to make good on his threat when Seth Lundy appears and stops him, leading him away to care for him. D’Amour carries on through the town and finds the Iad. He screams into the cloud, calling for Kissoon, and then using his true name, Clayton O’Connell. Kissoon appears then, interest piqued with D’Amour’s knowledge of his name. Harry tells Kissoon that his mother is alive, and that she is waiting for him. Kissoon agrees to go with him, not out of sentimentality, but out of curiosity. When they reach the house that the medallion has built, Kissoon refuses to go inside and asks D’Amour to go in and fetch her to him. Harry fetches her… and predictably, Kissoon kills her.
The violence and death do not go unnoticed below ground. Tesla feels the death and sees the blood spreading across her sky. She rages and races back to her body. When she feels the flesh around her, she realises that this is what the medallion wanted. She feels the power of the Art surging through her, raising her up, and claiming her for its own. This was not a gift that can be refused, it is a possession which holds her in its grip and which she would need to learn to control.
On the surface, Maeve’s corpse turns to ash and rainbows of light spring from the ground as Tesla appears in the air, insubstantial at first, but solidifying and becoming real. At her appearance, the Iad screams and retreats in fear of her. Kissoon tells her that there is nothing she can do; the end will still come, before he too retreats.
So to the aftermath and Harry D’Amour returns to New York and faces his own demons, knowing that no matter how many he puts down there will always be more climbing out of the pit.
For Tesla, she has to put her mind in order. She now holds the Art and is more than she ever was before. She travels to Omaha, back to Grillo’s house where she takes his post at The Reef, watching the mysteries and listening to the whispers of the world as she tries to understand who this new Tesla will be.
With Everville, Barker had further cemented his place as the great imaginer of our times, a writer for whom boundaries of genre meant nothing. He had created a middle novel (Everville was intended as a second book in a trilogy) which could both stand on its own and provide a glimpse of wider tales too, which has piqued the interest of readers ever since its publication. All over Barker discussion boards, you will see readers demanding that Barker write that elusive third book of the Art with almost the same rabidity that you hear from fans of George R.R. Martin calling for Winds of Winter. It can only be testament to the quality of writing in this book that, twenty-five years after its original release, the appetite is only gaining strength.
1994 is notable for the release of Everville, but Barker was also busy in Hollywood. Four years after his hellish experiences directing Nightbreed, Clive decided that the time was right for him to retake the director’s chair for a new feature.
Clive had been eager to get Harry D’Amour onto the screen for a decade, and United Artists had now given him the green light to bring his short story, The Last Illusion, to the screen. Barker had first mooted a D’Amour movie back in the late eighties, with an original screenplay called The Great Unknown. D’Amour is clearly a character that Barker feels a great affinity with, appearing in several short stories and making appearances in The Great and Secret Show and Everville, but only now, with the successful Hellraiser movie franchise and a growing list of bestselling novels, were the studios looking for more Barker material to put on the big screen. The Last Illusion, with embellishments from the original Books of Blood story, became Lord of Illusions and went into production in July 1994 with Barker directing.
Lord of Illusions is a much bigger story than its literary counterpart, offering much more in the way of backstory for Swann, and introducing the Mephistopheles-like Nix (surely one of the unsung antagonists in the Barker canon). Although the heart of the story is still very much culled from The Last Illusion, Lord of Illusions builds on that story and offers us a glimpse into the world of Swann and D’Amour that is only ever hinted at in the story, culminating in an apocalyptic endgame which would take the $11m budget to its limits. Scott Bakula plays a very convincing Harry D’Amour, while Famke Jansen embodies the noir femme-fatale of Dorothea to perfection.
Barker was very astute in the production of Lord of Illusion. Keeping in mind the cuts that had to be made to Nightbreed, he inserted several scenes that he knew would be cut in an effort to save more important scenes from the cutting room floor. One scene had to be recoloured to remove the impact of a sea of blood on the screen and, after test screenings, there were several scenes removed to cut time, but it did remain the movie that Barker wanted to make. Thankfully, unlike Nightbreed, the Director’s Cut of this film was released to DVD soon after the theatrical cut was released and restored the missing narrative with a commentary track from Barker himself.
On its release in 1995, Lord of Illusions made back its $11m budget and more, purging the bad taste that Barker had from Nightbreed. It was a well-received movie with both critics and the public, despite stalling amid competition from Kevin Costner’s Waterworld and Sylvester Stallone’s Assassins.
It was also the last movie that Barker has directed to date.
Events in 1995 also informed Barker’s next book, Sacrament.
A sense of things passing, of impermanence, pervaded Clive’s mind through the sickness and death of his cousin, Mark, from complications connected to AIDS. As a gay man, the AIDS epidemic had been stark in Barker’s mind since its rise to prominence in the 80’s; the sense that gay men were threatened as a tribe because they did not propagate and were born to extinction. These thoughts are at the heart of what Sacrament was to become as a story, a tale centred on extinction and the impermanence of things.
I have to admit that I found Sacrament to be one of Barker’s more difficult books on first reading, the manifesto he was putting forward often speaking louder than the story. As I came to understand the intention behind the book, and the inspiration for it, I also came to understand that this is one Barker tale where the story isn’t really the point. Here is Barker trying to say something far more profound which works on many different levels: an environmental message as much as it is a humanitarian one, a cry of near-despair from the LBGT community as much as it is the same for humankind at large. Given the news we read today of extinctions and the state of our planet 23 years after the book was released, it remains to this day certainly one of Barker’s more prescient tales.
Will Rabjohns is a photographer who plies his trade in war-torn and famine ravaged territories. His stock in trade is not the human suffering is these areas, however, but the impact that these very human events have on wildlife. He photographs endangered species in their habitat, struggling to survive under the scourge of mankind.
During a trip, he is attacked by a wounded bear and grievously wounded. He falls unconscious, and as he heels his mind transports him back to his childhood in England.
Will’s dreams take him back to when he was thirteen, wandering the hills around the village where he lived. He was a loner. His older brother was the family favourite, but died young, which left Will to wander and dream. On one such rambling, he encounters the strange Jacob Steep and his partner, Risa McGee. Steep is the “Killer of Last Things,” travelling the globe to put an end to the last remnants of each dying species. The pair had been together for many years. Rosa had carried eighty-seven children, and all of them had died at birth.
Will wanders with the pair, listening to the wisdoms that Steep imparted: “Living and dying we feed the fire.” It is a lesson that Steep illustrates to Will in stark terms, encouraging him to throw a moth into a flame. Then, at Steep’s encouragement, Will kills two birds with the man’s own knife. “Imagine that these two birds were the last of their kind,” Steep tells Will. “This will not come again… nor this… nor this…” It is a stark lesson, and one that Will takes to heart. Such a small act of cruelty could change the world.
After this lesson, Steep touches Will and the boy is given a vision of Steep’s history. In 1730, the man was sent to confront an artist who had given up his life to debauchery and excess. The artist, Thomas Simeon, had been taken under the patronage of a mystic named Gerard Rukenau and taken to his retreat in the Hebrides in order to create a record of the building of a cathedral to the arcane that Rukenau had named the Domus Mundi. Steep had been sent to track the artist down, but Simeon had committed suicide rather than submit to being returned to his patron.
Steep blamed Rukenau for the artist’s death, turning his back on the man in favour of his mission to wipe out the last of every endangered species, similar to the way that Will would capture endangered species and record them in photographs. When, as an adult, Will sees one of Simeon’s paintings, he recognizes the relationship between the art and his own photographs. Whereas Will was recording species in extremis, in the moments after extinction, Simeon was recording the moment preceding extinction.
When Will wakes from his coma, he is visited by a strange presence called Mr. Fox. The creature tells him that God wants him to see. He tells him that the passing of things, of days and beasts and men he’d loved was just a cruel illusion and memory… a clue to its unmasking.
Being gay, Will is a race of one, an endangered species all his own. Steep and Rosa know this and are plotting his extinction. They return to Will’s childhood home and assault his father; a bait to draw Will back in.
Will does go home and confronts Steep, and touching him again he is met by another chilling image. He saw the human race as a scourge which descended on every other living thing. He wished for a plague to wither every human womb, for death to silence every throat. Will understood Steep’s wishes; it was often how he saw humankind himself.
Will pursues Steep north, to the Hebrides island of Tyree (the scene of many happy holidays for Clive Barker himself), where he discovers the Domus Mundi of Rukenau. He does not find a wondrous cathedral, as he had seen in his childhood visions in Steep’s memory, but a cesspit clogged with filth and detritus.
High atop a network of fetid ropes sits the sinuous Rukenau himself, but he is no satanic deity. His arrogance has created a prison for himself; one step outside his creation would mean his death, the price of his immortality. The Domus Mundi is Rukenau’s prison, and he has covered its beauty in shit and dirt.
Rukenau was the illegitimate child of an architect who abandoned him. Rukenau devised a plan to revenge; to create a cathedral which would leave his father’s churches empty. Rukenau studied architecture and magic, studying the magical properties of geometry to achieve his plan. Finally he enlists the help of an angel, but he fails to understand the Nilotic’s plans… he needed an artist. Thomas Simeon was that artist, hired to interpret the angel’s vision.
Steep enters and cuts down Rukenau’s web of ropes, killing the man. Rosa follows in his wake, cleaning the dirt from the walls to reveal the beauty and grandeur of the man’s creation. On the walls are paintings of creation, in all its chaos and wonder. As Rukenau dies, he offers Will his final secret; Steep and Rosa are the Nilotic angel, split in two by Rukenau’s necromancy. They would wander the world and learn the nature of their gender, unable to live apart but tortured by each other’s company as they could never be close enough. With a touch, the two halves of the angel are reunited; Rosa’s brightness bleeding into the darkness of Steep and becoming whole once more.
The newly restored angel moves deeper into the Domus Mundi and Will follows. It seems to him that he is not moving through painted echoes of the world, the expert markings of a skilled painter, but through the world itself. Seeing the world and its creation laid bare like this, he feels joy at the knowledge that the House imparts. He comes to realise that joy comes from being.
With these revelations, Will returns to his childhood home. He wanders the countryside and sees the landscape with new eyes, feeling the same joy that was awakened in him within the Domus Mundi. He sees creation in everything around him; in the smallest stone and sheerest cliffs, the least blade of grass and the oldest gnarled tree. He has been changed forever by his experiences, and he is renewed.
These changes are brought home with startling finality when he fulfills a promise made to his friend and former lover, Patrick. He is dying of AIDS, and Will had promised him that he would be there at the end. The time has come for Patrick, and Will goes to his bedside to be there with him. Now, with his new insights, he feels uncomfortable at the deathbed. He feels he is intruding and no longer death’s voyeur. It reaffirms the change that has been wrought within him, and he knows that it is a change for the better.
Sacrament marked a change in Barker’s attitudes toward his sexuality, which he had previously regarded as very much a private matter. He had never been “in the closet” as far as friends and colleagues were concerned, and had been in several romantic relationships over the years. With Sacrament though, he decided to be more publicly open about his sexuality and speak about issues that the LGBT community faced. He arranged a series of interviews with gay publications which were headlined as “coming out,” but really it was Barker speaking out.
Of course, Barker had written gay characters into his books as far back as Books of Blood, but his publisher in America still begged him to rewrite Will Rabjohns and be less explicit about his sexuality. This Clive refused to do, and used the story as a vehicle to convey a message that bears repeating loudly even today.
What came next for Barker was inspired by an encroaching landmark in time; the millennium. It was a theme that Clive had already addressed in a couple of his stories, most notably in Everville and Imajica, but now he had reason to tackle the theme in a more direct way. Chiliad: A Meditation was a wraparound short story which appeared in the Revelations anthology in 1997, edited by Douglas E. Winter and focused on the impending millennium.
Chiliad was not Clive’s only short story published since the Books of Blood; indeed, The Hellbound Heart, Cabal, and Thief of Always were shorter works and he had written some short stories for various themed magazine publications like Time Out and other anthologies.
Chiliad was written during a tumultuous time in Barker’s life. With the end of a six year relationship distracting him, Clive went away to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This is a location that would feature heavily in his novel Galilee, but in 1997, it was very much an escape from the bleak place that his life seemed to have become, and The Chilad served as an object to focus his mind back upon work.
Chiliad: A Meditation (1997)
The Chiliad is written in two parts, beginning and ending the Revelations anthology. In the anthology, each of the ten stories included represent a decade in the century, with Barker’s story serving as a wraparound for the entire work.
The story begins with an introduction. Shank lives by the river in the village of Tress. One day he finds his partner, Agnes, face-down in the water, the victim of a murder. Filled with rage, Shank tracks down three men and kills them in revenge for his lady’s death, not knowing that they are innocent. When in the throes of killing the last victim, Shank becomes ensnared with the man and drowns in the river himself. That is the last event of any significance which takes place on that spot, and nothing will change for a thousand years… until 1940. It is in this year that a German bomber will mistakenly drop its bombs on the village and destroy the church. After the war, a new church is built and an artist in commissioned to design four stained glass windows, but only three of the designs are completed.
The first window showed John the Baptist preaching in the river to a crowd of worshippers. The second window shows Christopher, with the young Christ on his shoulders. The third window showed Christ himself, walking on the water, while the fourth window remains blank, showing only the sky. What the artist had reputedly intended was to depict the second coming of Christ, arriving with the river flowing in the wrong direction and the sun, moon and stars all appearing in the same sky… but all that exists is a plain glass pain.
The second part of the story takes place as the world turns onto the new millennium, a thousand years after the deaths of Shank and Agnes. Devlin wanders near the church by the riverbank, troubled just as Shank had been so many years before. Devlin is an insurance broker from the city, and on two nights a week he makes pots and bowls in ceramics class. He is a banal, uninteresting creature. Devlin is remarkable, though, for his own wife was found dead and washed up in the river the previous night. Like Shank before him, Devlin dreamed of tracking down the killer and meting out his own justice.
While ruminating on the death of his wife, Devlin is transported to the night of her death. He sees her wandering on the riverbank with her secret lover, and he sees himself wielding the knife that takes the lives of both wife and lover. By some trick, Devlin questions himself to discover how it was that he came to commit such a crime, but this is only the beginning of his revelation. This other Devlin transports him back to a time when he was caught watching his sister and her lover’s sexual tryst, but Devlin knows there is more to the story than that.
Devlin is transported back through the history of mankind, witnessing crime after crime, until he witnesses the night a millennium ago when Shank’s wife died. We see a man clutching the knife that killed Agnes, the priest of the nearby church. When the priest sees the flame that is Devlin, he believes it to be Christ. He embraces the flame and Devlin burns to nothing as the priest lies down to die.
Watching, the narrator of the piece finds his own revelation and finishes the story, leaving the notepad where it might be found. Then, with nothing more to do, the narrator wades into the river to meet a fate that isn’t explained, but is left as incomplete as the stained glass in the church.
Chiliad is perhaps a throwaway story written for a new millennium anthology, but it served as rehabilitation for Barker and is regarded as one of Barker’s own favourite stories. It is a meditation on loss and regret, a harking back of things past. It opened the floodgates of creation on many fronts. It greased the wheels for his great work of the new millennium: Abarat. It was upon his return from Kauai that Barker would begin work on a series of canvases that would form the basis for that great, ambitious work.
But he had work to complete, too. The next year brought Galilee into the world.
1998 was a year of changes for Barker. Just as the end of his relationship with Malcolm Smith had sparked and fuelled the writing of the Chiliad, so the beginning of Clive’s relationship with David Armstrong was the spark that fed the writing of his next ambitious work, Galilee. Indeed, there are many striking similarities with Clive’s life at the time and the romance which takes place within the pages of this book (Atva “Galilee” Barbarossa is surely an approximation of Armstrong,) and Kauaii features very heavily. Armstrong brought to Clive’s life family, in the personage of Armstrong’s daughter, and another dog to add to Clive’s own pack.
Just as the Chiliad was a very bleak story, Galilee is almost joyful. It focusses on transformation, redemption (that idea that Barker returns to again and again throughout his books), and hope for the future. Along with Imajica and the Books of The Art, Galilee should rightly be considered as one of Barker’s greatest triumphs.
Edmund “Maddox” Barbarossa is the writer and narrator of this history of the great feud between the Barbarossa family and the Gearys. Maddox is a cripple, confined to a wheelchair since an accident rendered him paralysed from the waist down. He lives in the home of his step-mother, Cesaria Barbarossa, with his half-sisters and one of his half-brothers. As the millennium approaches, Maddox senses that the time is right to tell the story of the Barbarossas, to uncover the mysteries and intrigues that are entangled in the family name. Of course, that also means that Maddox must tell the story of the Geary family, American royalty similar to that of the Kennedys, and the story of Rachel Pallenberg, the woman who could destroy or save them all.
The Barbarossas are deities and demi-gods, living for thousands of years and influencing the world in all of that time. The story opens with Cesaria Barbarossa and her husband, Nicodemus, walking along the beach on the shores of Galilee. Their child runs away and dives into the sea, swimming away from his parents. The child has no name as yet, and the parents are arguing about what his name should be. They ask a fisherman what the boy’s name should be, what the name of the village he hails from is, and he answers “Galilee.” Cesaria refuses to name her child after the sea into which the child has tried to escape, but meeting the pair does inspire the fisherman to travel to the city of Samarkand, where he becomes a shaman and teaches supplicants of the world and the day he met with gods.
Years later, Cesaria and Nicodemus live a polygamous life, where Nicodemus pursues several sexual conquests (civilisations through the centuries have created statues in honour of his cock) and raises horses. In turn, Cesaria has entered into an affair with Thomas Jefferson, whom she inspires to build her house, l’Enfant. It is here that Cesaria retreated to and lives out the rest of her years with her children and, latterly, her stepson Maddox. It is at l’Enfant that Nicodemus begins an affair with Maddox’s wife, and is where Maddox is kicked by one of Nicodemus’ horses and paralysed in an accident which kills his father. What can Maddox do but forgive his dead father his trespasses?
All of this Maddox hears when he is summoned to the attic room where Cesaria lives in l’Enfant. The experience is as terrifying as it is inspiring, and Maddox finds that he can walk again… for a short time. Following these revelations, Cesaria gives her blessing for Maddox to write the story of her family… their time is coming to an end, after all.
The Gearys are an old American family, rich beyond the dreams of avarice. No one in the country truly remembers where the family earned their fortune; their fingers are to be found in numerous businesses across their empire. They are the kind of family, like the Kennedys, who are seen on the cover of Time magazine and held up as the all-American archetype.
Hearts break all over America when Mitchell Geary, the grandson of Cadmus Geary, falls in love and marries Rachel Pallenberg. She is not a rich girl from a rich family by any means, but meets Mitchell when he stumbles into the jewellery store where she works. She helps him to choose and buy a broach, and ends up with a husband.
Of course, happiness cannot last long for Rachel and Mitchell. She falls pregnant and soon miscarries; doctors tell her that she cannot bear children. It is a major blow to the couple, for whom children are a priority to assure the continuance of the family name and fortune. Mitchell soon begins philandering and Rachel leaves, at first going back to her parents’ home. After a visit from her sister-in-law, Margie, she finds out about a place that is perfect for her to find her mind… and is kept specifically for the Geary women to escape to. So it is that Rachel travels to the Hawaiian island of Kauaii and changes the course of her life… and the lives of all the Gearys.
At the house in Kauaii, Rachel meets the caretaker of the house, Niolopua. He welcomes her warmly, promising to look after her every wish during her stay, and leaves her to her thoughts. She luxuriates in the house’s seclusion, spending her time relaxing and getting her mind in order. As the sun sets, Rachel sees a ship and watches as it passes the bay on which her retreat sits. She watches for a while, and then disappears into the house to sleep. She is awoken by the smell of burning; someone has built a fire on the beach as she slept; local youths, she reasons and returns to sleep. When she awakes again, there is a man in her room. She is taken aback at first, but speaks to the man. He is gentle, softly spoken, and offers no threat to her. She feels comforted by his very presence. When he leaves, she mourns his leaving. The man returns and shows her his ship, the ship that she watched the day before. He takes her away on the boat and they make love, consummating a relationship that could destroy or redeem two families. Rachel has met Galilee Barbarossa.
Meanwhile, the Geary family is falling apart. Mitchell has turned to drink, his brother has descended into debauchery, and the old man, Cadmus, is failing. The family is being secretly run by the old man’s wife, Loretta, in an effort to keep the media and business wolves from coming to the door. It is a situation that cannot possibly last. The cracks become apparent when Margie Geary is found dead, apparently from an overdose. Rachel returns from Kauaii for the funeral, and events soon spiral out of control.
Soon after Margie’s death, Cadmus Geary’s health begins to fail. On his last night, Cesaria Barbarossa pays a visit and repays Cadmus for the evils he has committed, reminding him of a debt that his family owes hers. It is here, for the first time, that Rachel meets the mother of her lover.
Mitchell Geary’s hopes of reconciliation are dashed when Rachel returns to Kauaii, in hopes of Galilee’s return. She finds Niolopua drinking and angry on the steps of the house. He explains that Galilee is his father, and that he has been robbed of a true relationship with him because of the Geary women, who all have had relationships with him and all have broken his heart. Galilee wanders the world, called back whenever a Geary woman needs him and it hurts him every time. It is an arrangement that has gone on for well over a century, and one which has gone on for too long. He leaves her to ruminate on his words, while she waits for Galilee’s return… and return he does.
Rachel is woken after a night of passion with Galilee by the sound of someone creeping through the house. She gets up to investigate and finds Mitchell, drunk and vengeful. He has already killed Niolopua outside; now he wants Galilee, and he wants her to go home with him and play the dutiful wife. She refuses, and Mitchell attacks her, but Galilee intervenes. Mitchell stabs Galilee, wounding him grievously. It seems that Mitchell has the upper-hand as he stalks Rachel up the stairs, but the Geary women have other ideas. An army of ghosts converge on Mitchell and force him backwards, causing him to fall on the stairs and impale himself on his own knife. Mitchell dies there on the floor as Rachel tends to Galilee.
Now Rachel learns the story of Galilee from a book that she has found in the house. During the American Civil War, a man named Nub Nickleberry is a cook in the army. During the war, he meets and befriends Galilee, whose life he saves. Nub asks a favour in return, and it is a favour which grants him fortunes… and ties Galilee to his family forever. Nub Nickleberry changes his name to Geary, and sires one of America’s great families… a family which now lays in ruins.
In the aftermath of the book, Galilee and Rachel Pallenberg return to l’Enfant and meet with Maddox. Galilee visits with his mother for the first time in a century, the prodigal returned at the last. He reads Maddox’s book, and when he finishes he quips, “It’s a great story. Is any of it true?”
And so ends the saga of the Gearys and Barbarossas… or does it?
At the end of the book, there is an intriguing segue where Maddox visits with his brother, Luman. The man is crazy, or so people think, and he has vowed to find his children. He persuades Maddox to help him locate his offspring, which he agrees to do now that his book is finished.
We are then taken on a journey with a floating leaf, and are shown a scene which involves Luman Barbarossa’s children, promising that the tale of the Barbarossas may be far from over.
Galilee is the last of Barker’s truly epic works of fantasy. It eschews horror completely, preferring to focus on the romantic and fantastic elements of Barker’s writing, but does not suffer from that lack of darkness. What Barker has constructed here is an intriguing history of the spiritual and material, mixing the two worlds until they become inextricable. It is a tour de force of imagination, and certainly among Barker’s best works.
1998 also saw the release of a movie that had been in the making since the 1995 release of the second Candyman movie. Alongside Bill Condon, Barker had enjoyed a deepening friendship based on both men’s mutual respect for each other and their similar approaches to creating horror movies. Following the lukewarm reception to Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (for which Barker has pushed for Condon to direct), the pair had mooted several projects, including an anthology movie adaptation of Books of Blood. None of their proposals were ever created, but the movie that Condon approached Barker with in 1996 was.
Gods and Monsters was a biopic of James Whale, director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in the 1930’s. Both men were huge fans of the director, and had read advance copies of the biography from which the film was adapted: Father of Frankenstein. Gods and Monsters was not a movie based on Barker’s work, and neither was he responsible for the screenplay or direction. Barker was executive producer and patron for the movie, always on hand with help and advice when it was required. Barker funded aspects of the movie from his own pocket, and opened his home up to Condon for a meeting with Ian McKellen, in an effort to persuade him to star.
Like many Barker projects, Gods and Monsters was a low-budget affair and struggled to find distribution and production company support. Condon completed the movie and toured it around the film festivals that year, winning awards and traction. It was released to theatres by Lionsgate in November 98, recouping the costs of production and becoming the most critically acclaimed movie of the year. The movie won Best Screenplay at the Oscars, with Ian McKellen nominated for best actor. Other industry awards were won in the following months, cementing it as the best received movie with Barker involvement… and a great way to end a productive year.
1999 was a quieter year for Barker, as he had effectively washed his hands of the Hellraiser and Candyman franchises by this time. No longer was he executive producer on any of those movies, and neither was he approached for advice on them. Aside from the movies bearing his name, he had no involvement in the creation of any of the movies… and nor did he wish to have any.
This left the way open for Barker to pursue other activities, and this he did with gusto. He painted, worked on pitches for television shows and movie adaptations, and of course he wrote incessantly. He also produced a coffee-table volume called The Essential Clive Barker.
The Essential Clive Barker contains snippets from his books, quotes from movies, and scenes from his plays. Each section in the book is introduced with explanations and thoughts from Clive himself. It is a writer of dark matter explaining his vision and allowing people insight into his imagination. As he said himself in the book, it isn’t intended to be read from beginning to end, but to be flicked through and enjoyed in passing moments. It serves as a great introduction to Clive’s work, and for a deeper delving for those already initiated into the Barkerverse.
The book is split into distinct themes such as Mind, Bestiary, Doorways, Journeys, Terrors, and Making and Unmaking, allowing the reader to explore Barker’s mind and work in an ordered fashion if one so wishes.
In truth, it serves as a bible for fans who wanted to ask him questions. Since the earliest years of his career, he and his publisher received reams of fan mail asking questions on all aspects of Barker’s writing. At first, he tried to reply personally to all of these correspondences, but it soon became impossible with the sheer volume of letters. Thanks to the internet, he set up a website and tried to answer questions there too. Of course, Barker was a regular on the convention circuit, but it was a medium that he never felt comfortable in. Barker is a very shy man, and found convention appearances an uncomfortable experience. In his own words, he had to become another man and perform the part of Clive Barker. That isn’t to say he ever disliked meeting fans, quite the contrary, but fans wanted to touch him and would queue for hours for their moment with the maestro. It was quite a responsibility to make sure that they didn’t leave disappointed.
The Essential Clive Barker was a partial remedy for those who wanted questions answered. This is Barker speaking to the reader, teaching the aspirant writer, and spending that time with the author that everyone craved. A must own for any Clive Barker devotee.
Come back tomorrow for Part 5 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…