Bantam Dell Publishing Group, 2000
|Series:||The Aegypt Cycle: Book 3|
|Avg Member Rating:||
For the past two decades, John Crowley has created some of the most beautiful and evocative fiction written anywhere. A recipient of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, he has written yet another masterpiece that brings together his distinctive blend of magic, mystery, adventure, and wonder.
When the world ends, it ends somewhat differently for each soul then alive to see it; the end doesn't come all at once but passes and repasses over the world like the shivers that pass over a horse's skin.
For the people in this novel, the concerns of everyday life -- children and love affairs, work and friendship -- are beginning to transmute into the extraordinary and to reveal the forces, dark and light, that truly govern their lives.
So it is for Pierce Moffett, would-be historian and author, who has moved from New York to the Faraway Hills, where he seems to discover -- or rediscover -- a path into magic, past and present. And so it is for Rosie Rasmussen, a single mother grappling with her mysterious uncle's legacy and her young daughter Samantha's inexplicable seizures. For Pierce's lover Rose Ryder, whose life is lived half in dream, another path unfolds: she's drawn into a cult that promises to exorcise her demons.
A great cycle of time is ending, as it did once before, in the bygone days of witchcraft and wars of religion. The lives of Renaissance wizard John Dee and rogue philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake, haunt the present: their stories, true and false, are being reenacted in the peaceful Faraway Hills and may hold the key to the future.
It is the dark of the year, between Halloween and the winter solstice, and the gateway is open between the worlds of the living and the dead. Pierce and Rosie, Samantha and Rose Ryder, and their enemies and allies -- who have powers hidden until now--must take sides in an age-old war that is approaching the final battle.
Or is it? In a John Crowley novel, nothing is as it seems. Crowley draws us into a cosmic tug-of-war between familiarity and strangeness, couples us with characters much like ourselves, and then works his own potent magic on the proceedings. Daemonomania is a journey into the very mystery of existence: what is, what went before, and what could break through at any moment in our lives.
When the world ends, it ends somewhat differently for each soul then alive to see it; the end doesn't come all at once but passes and repasses over the world like the shivers that pass over a horse's skin. The coming of the end might at first lift and shake just one county, one neighborhood, and not the others around it; might feelably ripple beneath the feet of these churchgoers and not of these taverngoers down the street, shatter only the peace of this street, this family, this child of this family who at that moment lifts her eyes from the Sunday comics and knows for certain that nothing will ever be the same again.
But though the world ends sooner for some than for others, each one who passes through it--or through whom it passes--will be able to look back and know that he has moved from the old world to the new, where willy-nilly he will die: will know it though all around him his neighbors are still living in the old world, amid its old comforts and fears. And that will be the proof, that in his fellows' faces he can see that they have been left behind, can see in the way they look at him that he has crossed over alive.
All that summer a lethargy had lain over the county that comprises most of the Faraway Hills and their towns farms and waterways. In the heat and torpid silence unaccountable things came to be, small things perhaps and apparently wholly unrelated. A fisherman caught a large-mouth bass in Nickel Lake and saw words written in the fading iridescence of its flank; when he wrote them out for the librarian at Blackbury Jambs she said they were Latin. A Conurbana man building a summer cabin for himself and his family on a mountain road (was it Bug Hill Road? or Hopeful Hill?) couldn't one day find the lot he had bought, or the foundation he had begun the day before, though he was certain he was on the right road--he went back twice to the crossroads, twice on to the road's end, bewildered and rageful, it just was not there, until the next day he returned by the same road (he was quite sure) and there it was.
And other things. But these of course are always happening, whether the world is ending or is not. What was less noticed was that, here and there, effects were appearing before their causes. Not often, not consistently, or life would have become unintelligible: just here and there, now and then, and trivial mostly. Hummingbirds ceased suddenly to visit a flowering hedge by a path of the Sunset Nursing Home, saddening one of the women within, who loved to watch them; not long after, a fool handyman following what he thought were his instructions went and cut down the hedge. A mother hanging clothes to dry saw her little daughter, plastic backpack on her back, going down the road--out of her eye's corner, just disappearing over the hill's brow; and later that day the daughter decided secretly to run away from home.
If such things could be gathered and counted, how many would there have been? How many should there be, in a normal year? Can a sudden rise in pointless coincidences--say a briar springing up just here where last year I lost my briar pipe, or all the mothers and daughters in Fair Prospect happening to say the word "honey" at the same moment--be charted? Is there a secret unfolding in unnoticeable things, that might if we could reckon it give us warning of ends, and of beginnings?
"When two people say the same thing at the same time," Rosie Rasmussen told her daughter Sam, "they do this. Look. Hook your little finger around mine. No like this."
Sam, tongue between her teeth, succeeded in hooking her little finger around her mother's.
"Now answer," Rosie said. " 'What goes up a chimney?' "
Sam thought. She shrugged.
"Well what does?"
"Smoke," Sam said.
"Right. 'What goes up a chimney?' "
" 'Smoke.' "
" 'May your wish and my wish never be broke.' Hold tight."
She tugged with her finger, and Sam with hers, until the strong link parted.
"There," Rosie said. "That's what you do."
"To get a wish?"
"What did you wish?"
"Well you're not supposed to tell," Rosie said. "It might not come true."
What had her own wish been? There had long been but one wish Rosie could formulate: a wish for something to wish for, something to fill the empty and unfeeling space where (it seemed) her feeling heart had once been. But then last fall she had gained something new to wish for, something to wish for on every evening star, to toot her horn for in every tunnel (hand on the car's roof as her father had taught her). And never to tell.
"I made a wish," Sam said.
Sam slid across the broad smooth leather seat of the car, which was a Tigress, her mother's lawyer Allan Butterman's car. Allan up front alone drove, and Rosie and Sam played in the back, in the richness of the tinted windows and the honeyed music of the rear speakers.
"I'll tell you."
"It might not come true, though."
"Well what is it?"
"Not to take medicine anymore."
That was, in one form anyway, exactly Rosie's wish. In August Sam had first experienced something that her doctor thought might be an epileptic seizure, though for a month she'd had no more. Then, just past midnight on the autumn equinox--a night of wild wind--Sam had her second seizure, a worse one than the first, taking hold of her small body and all its contents for nearly a minute, and no doubt about it then. And next day in the splendor of the blue morning, amid a pageant of fast-moving white cloud and the trees still softly gesturing with their turning leaves, Rosie drove Sam again to the doctor's, and talked long with him; and then went to the drugstore in Blackbury Jambs. So now Sam took a small dose of phenobarbital elixir, three times a day. Too young at barely five to swallow pills. Rosie had the bitter liquid with her, and a little plastic syringe without a needle to draw it up with and squirt it into Sam's mouth, after a battle, always a battle.
Copyright © 2000 by John Crowley
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