Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fear - Chapter 6, Part 1 - Discovery

So last chapter we had the, uh, horrific twist of Lowry relaxing on his own grave.  This chapter opens with him in his bedroom, noting from the position of the sunlight on the wall that he's woken up early.  And I can't help but feel disappointed in this transition - if it were me, I'd have Lowry black out in shock or something after reading his own tombstone, then jerk awake and find himself in his room again.  As written, he scampered home and went back to bed, with no additional angst or distress between that revelation and his awakening.  Mind-numbing shock, a brisk late night walk, and sleep.

But here we are.  Lowry lies in his bed, listening to the sounds of the early morning: the bird by his window, Mary singing elsewhere in the house, and some jackass running a lawnmower when reasonable people are still trying to get their seven hours in.  But then he hears a board creak outside his door, and "somehow there was menace in that sound."  And, for another reason he can't explain, Lowry decides to lay still in bed with his eyes nearly closed, feigning sleep. 

Do you think this book would be better if we substituted the words "the Force" whenever a mysterious something imparts knowledge to Lowry?  And how might Star Wars be affected if we swapped out "the Force" for "the Plot?"

Using his Jedi Fake Sleeping trick, Lowry sees Tommy silently open the door and enter his room.  Tommy seems satisfied that Lowry is still asleep, and creeps closer until he's standing right over him.  Lowry's first instinct is to grab his friend's arm, I don't know, as a prank or something, but the Force tells him to wait.  Tommy glances back as if to ensure that Mary isn't around to see, then he moves his hand over Lowry's eyes, once, twice.  Our protagonist feels a numb sensation creeping through him, and can't move!  A Sith Stay-Sleepy Trick!

Tommy leans in close until their faces are only three inches apart, and the sexual tension is just devastating.  He stays like this for over a minute, and for a moment Lowry thinks he can see fangs in his friend's mouth!  Then Tommy straightens up, "a cold smile taking the beauty from his face," and silently leaves the room.

Well.  That was weird.

It's some time before Lowry is able to get up out of bed, as he feels like he's made a deposit at the blood bank.  When he's able to haul himself in front of the mirror, he's shocked by the vision he sees in it: a man with sunken eyes and cheeks, gaunt and gray like a corpse with matted hair and shaggy eyebrows.  Lowry focuses on shaving and washing up and feels a bit better when he looks again to tie his cravat.

After all, here it was a fresh spring day.  Devil take Jebson; the old fool would be dead long before James Lowry.  Devil take the four hours; as the knight had said, what were four hours?  Devil take the phantoms which had assailed him.  He had courage enough and strength enough to last them out.  He had too much courage and will power to cause him to back down upon his original assertions in the article.  Let them do their worst!

A heroic sentiment, except this kinda completely flies in the face of how we've seen Lowry act when push comes to shove.  He decided the four hours was the result of some malaria complication, then went off to look for them, and when things got scary he was relieved he didn't find them.  He rallied and decided to face his fears, only to subsequently run away and presumably wet himself when they revealed themselves.  To say nothing of his odd choice of words, "devil take them," given that this all started when Lowry voiced his disbelief in said devil.

Still, the weirdest thing about this may be that Lowry isn't dwelling on Tommy's fangs or that paralysis hex.  Something like that happened to me, I think I'd spend most of the morning, if not the rest of the day, coming to terms with my friend being a warlock lizard-man.

Instead, Lowry marches down to breakfast, pointedly ignoring the floater and phantom laughter that are still following him.  Mary gives him a good morning kiss, Tommy's already at the table and casually mentions Lowry's late night stroll.  No one's concerned that Mr. Malaria was wandering around at night again, when last time he wound up passed out in the gutter, chilled even further by rain.  Has this happened before with non-malaria illnesses?  Is Mary used to Lowry being escorted home by night watchmen?

For his part, Lowry feels a flash of resentment that Tommy mentioned his rambling in front of Mary, then he almost recalls and considers that bizarre episode when his friend snuck into his room just minutes ago, but has his thoughts derailed when Mary serves him his food.  It goes about as well as Sunday dinner, in that his plate tries to dodge his fork when he makes an attempt at spearing his eggs.  On top of that, whenever Lowry focuses his attention on his incredible dancing breakfast, out of the corner of his eye he thinks he sees yellow fangs in Tommy's mouth again.

With all his courage exerted, Lowry managed to sit still.  He looked at his plate.  As long as he did not try to touch it, it was perfectly quiet.

Then he saw something else.  When he took his eyes away from Mary, she seemed to have fangs not unlike Tommy's!

He stared at her, but her face was its own sweet self.

He looked away.

Mary's mouth was marred by those yellow fangs!

If he could only see their mouths looking straight at them!  Then he could be sure!

The dark thing scuttled out of sight.

It's all too much for Lowry, and he abruptly gets out of seat and announces he has to meet somebody before his first class.  And yes, even after the malaria, the terrible visions, the inability to eat, the lost sleep, the lost hours, having to hastily exit church mid-service, and so forth, not only is Lowry not going to a doctor, he still plans on trying to teach.  Boy, he must sure love being a professor and have a real passion for... well, we'll see in a bit.

Mary asks what's wrong, Lowry tries to reassure her with a kiss but feels those fangs pressing against his mouth, yuck.  She points out he's forgotten his hat as he walks out the door, but he only waves in response and keeps on trucking.  Tommy hurries to keep up with Lowry, asking what's wrong, though Lowry can see clearly - when he isn't directly looking, anyway - the fangs in Tommy's mouth, and the "sly, meaningful" look on his face.

Tommy reminds Lowry of his late-night ambulations, "chasing forth as though possessed by a thousand devils," and asks what's wrong.  Lowry can only coldly reply that Tommy already knows the answer, reminds Tommy that it was his talk of demons and devils that started all this, and says he's "almost sure" Tommy is to blame for all his recent problems.

"I'm glad you said 'almost,' Jim."

"There was that drink, and then everything went black for four hours and I lost-"

"Jim, there's no poison or anything in the world that could cause such a blankness and leave no effect.  Grant me that, Jim."

A-ha!  I never said it was poison, criminal!  

Lowry starts to waver, and Tommy assures him that "Whatever is happening to you has nothing whatever to do with me" and he only wants to help his friend.  So in the end, Lowry doesn't confront Fanged Tommy over that bizarre episode that morning, but instead agrees to meet him for lunch.  Then he sends his friend on ahead while he ducks into Mike's diner for some breakfast, since he's famished.

He was relieved to find that this plate did not move.  And it began to be born in him that Tommy must have quite a bit to do with what was happening to him.  He ate like a starved man.

Boy, it sure is exciting, following the experiences of a weak-willed, fearful and vacillating man as he continuously avoids taking the actions that could solve his problems, or learn from his past experiences.  This is almost like spending a whole horror movie with the stupid girl who normally gets killed by the psycho in the first five minutes.

Back to Chapter 5, part 2

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