Authors: John Crowley
Tags: #FIC019000, #FIC000000, #FIC009000, #FIC024000
THE ÆGYPT CYCLE
Love & Sleep
Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land
Novelties and Souvenirs
The Childhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines
In Other Words
This edition first published in the United States in 2008 by
The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
141 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10012
Copyright © 2000, 2008 by John Crowley
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the
publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection
with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
To the many authors cited as sources in the preceding volumes of this series, the author wishes to add the following: Nuccio
Giordano Bruno and the Philosophy of the Ass
; Angelo Maria Ripellino,
; Brian P. Levack,
The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe
; Ioan Couliano,
The Tree of Gnosis
; Carlo Ginzburg,
; André Pieyre de Mandiargues,
Arcimboldo the Marvelous
; Deborah Vansau McCauley,
Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History
; Helen Reisner (ed.),
Children with Epilepsy: A Parent’s Guide
. Translations from ancient authors, Apuleius to Bruno, are the work of the present author or have been adapted by him from
the translations of others; almost all conform in most respects to the originals. Likewise, all extracts from the diaries,
works, and letters of John Dee are quoted more or less verbatim except for those that are fictitious, or are not now as they
The author’s profound thanks are due to Harold Bloom; to Laurie Block and Paul Park for their critiques; and to Ron Drummond
for his help. For the current edition, thanks to Rodger Cunningham, Jerry Collum, and all the masked men and women of cyberspace
who alerted me to many errors and fatuities herein corrected.
he Third Quaternary of the twelve houses of the Zodiac comprises three houses: first,
, the Wife, the house of marriage, partnership, divorce too; then
, house of death and the dead; and
, the house of religious observance and also, strangely, the house of voyages. Set out.
The Third Quaternary is Afternoon, and Autumn, from the Equinox to the Winter Solstice. It is the element Water, and the melancholic
humor, and the west wind; it contains the middle of life, passages, friends and enemies, loss, dreams, dying, safety and danger.
Its matter is the answering of calls, or the failure to answer them.
Midway between equinox and solstice in the year of the end of the world, Pierce Moffett in the thirty-fifth year of his own
age mounted a long-distance bus outside the variety store on River Street in the town of Blackbury Jambs in the Faraway Hills.
He looked for a seat in the rear, where smoking was at that time permitted, though his mouth was already foul from too many
cigarettes. It was a raw day, with low clouds rolling before a wind and droplets forming on the tinted windows of the bus.
The Houses of the Zodiac are not the Signs, as Val the Faraways’ astrologer and barkeeper has often to explain. The Houses,
she says, are like this: suppose, at your birth, a line were to be drawn across the eastern sky right at the horizon out beyond
where you lie. Then up the sky were drawn eleven more lines, equally spaced, up above your head, down around behind you, and
into the nether sky below, coming back around to where you started, dividing the blue ball of the heavens around you (pretend
it’s really a ball) into twelve equal orange-slice sections, with your little self at the center. Then suppose the sections
are numbered, starting with the one just at the eastern horizon. That section’s the first House,
, the House of Life; the eighth House,
, the House of Death, is over your head and to the west. Interesting? Now
look out the windows of these houses—they are nothing
windows—and see what stars are caught in each just at the moment you appear bare and wailing on the earth. Say for instance
Saturn, so heavy and cold, is out there in your first house, the House of Life; and say the sign Capricorn or part of it is
just behind him, which is one of his favorite signs; and there you are, a lot of Saturn in your horoscope, in a House where
it counts too. And though Val would never say that this street of houses on which you find yourself will make you what you
are, what you do make of yourself has got to be made here.
Saturnian, with all that that implies, Pierce Moffett took his seat, his heart small and as heavy as the old god’s lead, a
plumb bob in his breast. He did not himself believe that the autumn darkness within him was due to the stars; nor did he think
it came to him from out there, from the turning year and the fast-falling sun. He thought this darkness was unique, unrelated
to any other, an awful new disease he was perhaps the first to catch, at the same time seeming oppressively familiar, as though
he had always borne it. He had begun to wonder if it would ever pass from him, or subside and return him to the clean and
happy, or at least ordinary daylit, world he was sure he had been inhabiting not very long ago.
The bus driver now entered, sat and activated his long-armed wipers to cleanse the fine droplets from his window. He pulled
shut the door, which made the sound of an airlock closing; around Pierce the familiar fug collected, bus air, what composed
it exactly. The brakes exhaled, the lights came on. The driver turned his great wheel to carry them away.
Too late now to leap off.
The gray and haunted little town from which Pierce departed for what appeared in his mind as an even darker region was an
old river port gathered at the feet of a mountain, Mount Randa, whose wooded heap rises suddenly to the north of it, carrying
upward the last few of its streets and houses. Around Randa’s base two rivers run, the Blackbury to the east, the Shadow to
the west, which flow together at this town,
, and make one big river. At Cascadia, once an important mill town, it falls over a steep falls, and then (growing larger,
fuller, slower) flows toward the city of Conurbana, which it once sustained and now merely sunders: a broad brown poor city
to which Pierce, unable still to believe it, has agreed to journey. It was to Blackbury Jambs that Pierce had come one summer
by chance, and by a backwater of the Blackbury had met Rose Ryder, whom no wisdom could have foreseen he would now be travelling
toward, with such awful trepidation.
How often he had marvelled, when reading stories or watching movies about the sudden irruption of the fearful uncanny into
ordinary lives—the activation of an ancient curse, the devil in the flesh—that the heroes seem to feel it so little. They
are surprised, they gasp, they deny it at first, but they gather their wits soon enough and begin to fight back; they don’t
faint from insupportable dread, as Pierce believed he would, as he always did in dreams when something awful, impossible yet
undeniable, the end of the world, arose into diurnality. Fainted and woke.
And now he was himself off to battle such a force (so he could not stop feeling) and he remained stuck in those opening scenes
or pages, between unmanning fear and urgent denial, while the enemy gathered strength. What he actually wanted to do was draw
his knees up to his chin and lock his arms around them and hug. This was the posture that he thought he would end up in for
good if this went on, and the temptation was to start now, to take cover behind himself.
He looked up, for he had caught for an instant out of the corner of his vision, in the window opposite, the sight of a herd
of great shapeless horned beasts, big as haystacks, like yaks or musk oxen, being driven over the rainy fields and away. The
bus was past them before Pierce could see what actual things they were—real haystacks, or the piled goods of some industry,
heaps of excavated earth—that had given rise to the weird illusion; he looked back, half-rising, to catch them out the back
window, but the bus had no back window. He sat down again.
An awful slippage or instability had just lately come over things, or Pierce had just lately come to perceive it; he seemed
to have discovered—though he refused to assent to the discovery—that he could make choices that would bring the present world
to an end, and begin another: indeed that he was already helplessly making such choices. Of course in every choice we make
we choose among worlds; every choice propels our own souls and selves along one path and not another, where we see sights
and do deeds we would not have seen or done otherwise: but to Pierce it was starting to seem that his choices actually brought
into being the new world he must wander in, not only for himself but for others too. He could not exit from the circular logic
of it: my choices, wise or foolish, make my life in the world; here is my life; here is the world; I have made it. Like a
man awaking in an earthquake trying to hold the pictures on the walls and the dishes on the shelf and thinking What is it?
What is it?, Pierce wondered what he had done, and tried to make it stop.
What was quite certain, what had come to be quite certain, was that the woman he loved had gone and joined or been inveigled
preposterous and tyrannical pseudo-Christian cult, and that the cult’s operatives—there were many of them, not all admitted—were
even now emptying her mind and heart of him and of common reality, and that she was smiling and willing, and that he must
but could not get her back. That was the reason for this dread that had taken hold of him, why he had ceased to sleep at night,
and why what sleep he had was filled with horrid dreams as with dirty water.
At other times, though, these certainties came themselves to seem dreamlike, and fell away; he ceased to believe that he was
appointed to save his beloved, or that she needed saving, or that she was his beloved.
He dropped the stub of his cigarette to the floor and crushed it. Doing so reminded him of the long voyages he used to take
aboard buses in weather like this, from his Ivy League university to his home in the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky: seven
hours, including a layover of an hour or two in the desolating squalor of the station in Huntington, West Virginia. November
days, Thanksgiving, Christmas; rain, dead earth, the home awaiting him at journey’s end no longer his home really but still
thickly, suffocatingly warm and familiar. And oh Lord another thing.
Another thing. He remembered how once, when riding the bus from school to home, he had conceived of a test of true love: a
test, that is, of how much one truly and wholly loves another.
God the cruelty he had been capable of conceiving, and all directed against himself too, his own unoffending person.
The test was this: powerful sorcerers have, without her knowledge, taken control of the woman you profess to love, who loves
you too (Pierce did not think then that these terms, love, loves you too, needed further definition). These sorcerers have
laid upon you—for reasons of their own, the cruel satisfaction of it, whatever—an absolute injunction: you may never see her
again. If you do she will die. Meanwhile these wicked mages have created or crafted a sort of phantasmic double or eidolon
of you, exactly like you in every way, except maybe just a little bit better looking, a little wiser, a little more generous.
And this double has taken your place with your unsuspecting beloved. The deal the sorcerers make with you is this: the false
you will love your beloved and cherish her and keep her from harm, for just so long as you, real you, continue to ride this
You can never see her again; but so long as you ride this bus, through this November, on this highway, she will be safe. If
ever you get off—get off for good, and not merely at scheduled rest stops in the poor parts of alien cities or at lonely diners
on windswept hilltops—then her demon lover will begin to change; will cease to be a good man and
become a cruel man, an uncaring one; will hurt her in certain dreadful ways only you yourself, her lover, could discover;
bastard, prick, will mark her for life with an unrelievable sadness: will break her heart.
The test then is: how long will you stay on the bus?
Crowded, too, the poor people who ride buses filling up the seats, filing sheepishly toward the door at rest stops to buy
rubber hot dogs or unwrap smelly homemade lunches, lining up again at the bus’s door gripping their grimy tickets. Not condemned,
though, like you; able to get off, to be replaced by other similar but different ones, burdened with similar but different
cheap suitcases and bundles tied with twine. So how many nights will you spend with them, sleeping fitfully wrapped in your
overcoat, picking up your book (Kierkegaard) and putting it down again, looking out at the swiftly passing desolation? She
of course knowing nothing ever of your riding.
Pierce marvelled. What kind of an idea of love was that, what kind of twisted? A century seemed to divide him from that youth,
who surely had no one to try out this theory with anyway, even hypothetically. A test of love harsher than in any romance,
and yet, as in no romance, a test unable to be passed, the villains defeated, love won at last.
Once upon a time there was a knight who was given a trial of true love. He took up his sword and shield, but then could not
do what he was commanded; and he laid them down again.
No, he told himself, no: no it is
up to you, it is not. Not up to you.
He looked at his watch. Only an hour and a half really aboard. Then the station in Conurbana at evening, where she’d said
she would meet him, he hadn’t ever been there before but already knew it well. In fact he brought into being its molded fiberglass
chairs and the dried chewing gum affixed beneath them and the subtle filth of the floors even as he pictured, touched them
in advance; and as he propelled himself and his bus unwillingly toward this place, he came to know, very surely, that she
would not be there to meet him, would certainly have been prevented by her handlers from coming.
The rain had grown a little heavier, or was it only that the bus drove into it harder and made its drops course hastily down
the windows? They had entered onto the interstate, and fled past green signs that held out to them the names of imaginary
places, unwanted towns and roads. His fellow passengers, borne along with him, looked out or inward helplessly; around them
the herd of cars pressed on, on their dreary and unrefusable errands.
What have I done? Pierce whispered in his heart. What have I done?