Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An early inspiration

This is a post I've been meaning to make for ages, but it's taken until now for me to think about it when I actually was at home, with the book in question available for me to quote from.

I've been a fan of Clive Barker practically since his first short story collection was published, which goes a long way toward explaining how I ended up the way I did. ;-) Below is a passage from one of his lesser-known novels, the fantasy/horror Weaveworld, which has informed a lot of my plant-based MC over the years. Of course, since this is Barker we're talking about, his version makes my knock-offs look positively cozy.

You don't need much set-up for the scene. The woman's the heroine, and the man's a random nameless bad guy who showed up just to become cannon plant fodder. At this point they've both been absorbed by the Weaveworld, a fantasy realm that owes a lot to Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, especially in this section. Oh, and if you think the woman's reactions in this passage are understated, that's only because you don't know what she's already been through:
It was a plant, the first living thing she'd seen here beyond the limits of the trail, with which it shared the same multiplicity of forms and brilliance of color. It was about the size of a small tree, its heart a knot of boughs so complex she suspected it must be several plants growing together in one spot. She heard rustling in the blossom-laden thicket, and among the serpentine roots, but she couldn't see the creature whose call had brought her here.

Something did become apparent, however: that the knot at the center of the tree, all but lost among the foliage, was a human corpse. If she needed further confirmation it was in plain sight. Fragments of a fine suit, hanging from the boughs like the sloughed skins of executive snakes; a shoe, parceled up in tendrils. The clothes had been shredded so that the dead flesh could be claimed by flora; green life springing up where red had failed. The corpse's legs had grown woody, and sprouted knotted roots; shoots were exploding from its innards.

There was no time to linger and look; she had work to do She made one circuit of the tree, and was about to return to the path when she saw a pair of living eyes staring out at her from the leaves. She yelped. They blinked. Tentatively, she reached forward and parted the twigs.

The head of the man she'd taken for dead was on almost back to front, and his skull had been cracked wide open. But everywhere the wounds had bred sumptuous life. A beard, lush as new grass, grew around a mossy mouth that ran with sap; floret-laden twigs broke from the cheeks.

The eyes watched her intently, and she felt moist tendrils reaching up to investigate her face and hair.

Then, its blossoms shaking as it drew breath, the hybrid spoke. One long, soft word.


Was it naming itself? When she'd overcome her surprise, she told it she didn't understand.

It seemed to frown. There was a fall of petals from its crown of flowers. The throat pulsed, and then regurgitated the syllables, this time better articulated.

"Am ia live?"

"Are you alive?" she said, comprehending now. "Of course. Of course you're alive."

"I thought I was dreaming," it said, its eyes wandering from its perusal of her for awhile, then returning. "Dead, or dreaming. Or both...."

[At this point, she realizes that he really is dead, a victim of the cataclysm that brought her here, and that his body has been repurposed by the Weaveworld.]

Her face must have registered her distress at his state, for the tendrils empathized, and grew jittery.

"So I'm not dreaming, then," the hybrid said.


"Strange," came the reply. "I thought I was. It's so like paradise."

She wasn't sure she'd heard correctly.

"Paradise?" she said.

"I never dared would be such pleasure."

She smiled. The tendrils were soothed.

"This is Wonderland," the hybrid said.


"Oh yes. We're near to where the Weave began; near to the Temple of the Loom. Here everything transforms, everything becomes. Me? I was lost. Look at me now. How I am!"

I chose the image at the top of this post (by Zdzislaw Beksinski) because, well, it seemed as appropriate as anything else I could think of. ;-/

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