The World According to Ploy

August 21, 2009

“A Hope In Hell”

The door to the Skytrain opens and I make my way to the other side, leaning against the doorway which will be closed for the rest of the way home. I pull out The Sandman and flip back and forth to find where I was: the beginning of chapter four, “A Hope In Hell.”

After three chapters, I finally got used to the artwork. It’s usually what I call…ugly. I’ve never been a fan of western comics, if only because I think the drawings, simply, suck. Leave shortbread to the Scots and comic books to the Japanese. This is not racism or discrimination. This is the truth.

But, as I said, I got used to the artwork. Plus, the story’s by Neil Gaiman, and that is enough for me to forge on. Morpheus – or the Sandman or the King of Dreams or simply Dream – continues on his quest to find the relics that were taken from him when he was captured seventy years ago.

He’s already found his pouch of magical sand, and now he’s gone to Hell to find his helmet. It’s in the hands of a demon named Choronzon, skinny and lanky with pink skin and two mouths, equally fanged. He refuses to return the helm to Morpheus, saying that he got it in a fair trade. If Morpheus wants it back, says Choronzon, then Morpheus must meet him in a challenge.

Morpheus agrees, and I held my breath as I turned the page. How would the fight be like? Violent? Would it have the flowing fluidity of Japanese comics? What weapon would Morpheus use? A sword? Energy beams? Would he fight fair? 

Oh, but it wasn’t a battle of might. It was a battle of…words. A battle of imagination. They stand on a stage, face-to-face. The demons of hell are their audience.

“I am a dire wolf, prey-stalking, lethal prowler,” Choronzon begins.

“My move,” says Morpheus. “I am a hunter, horse-mounted, wolf stabbing.”

Choronzon’s mouths gape slightly at this, but he continues. “I am a horsefly, horse-stinging, hunter-throwing.”

There are many ways to lose the oldest game, Morpheus reflects.Failure of nerve, hesitation…Being unable to shift into a defensive shape. Lack of imagination. “I am a spider, fly-consuming, eight-legged.”

“I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed,” Choronzon is snarling now.

Morpheus, however, remains expressionaless. “I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy footed. I feel the snake writhe beneath my hoof, its spine crushed.”

“I am an anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm-life destroying.”

The Dreamlord pauses, thinks of a new tactic.

Morpheus almost grins when he says, “I am a world, space-floating, life nurturing.”

Lucifer Morningstar, one of the Triumvirates of Hell, looks up from his drink, his eyes sharp, focused, unnerving.

“I am a nova, all-exploding,” Choronzon does not give up. “…Planet-cremating.”

“I am the Universe — all things encompassing, all life embracing.”

I hold my breath. Surely Morpheus must win. Nothing can beat the Universe…nothing.

“I am anti-life, the beast of judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything.”

I felt a chill go down my spine. That can beat the Universe. The dark at the end of everything…how is Morpheus going to beat darkness. There is always darkness. Space is darkness. The universe has more darkness than light.

“Sss. And what will you be then, Dreamlord?” Choronzon mocks.

I tensed. Yes, what will he be?

“I am hope.”

Morpheus looks straight ahead, while all the demons of hell, including Choronzon, stare at him, perplexed, confused.

Choronzon blubbers, struggles, opens his mouths and closes the again. “I…don’t know.”

The Dreamlord wins, fair and square.

 

 

Disturbing? Yes. And I still think the artwork is lacking…but I want to read on.

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