The Sandman
Brief Lives


The Sandman Library

Preludes & Nocturnes
The Doll's House
Dream Country
Season of Mists
A Game of You
Fables & Reflections
Brief Lives
World's End
The Kindly Ones
The Wake

ORPHEUS: She was a remarkable woman.

ANDROS: All women are remarkable.

Chapter 1





MAN: Dahling, when God put teeth in your mouth, he ruined a perfectly good arsehole.

Chapter 1





DESPAIR: He manages a supermarket in a small town in Nebraska. Yesterday his wife found a collection of pornographic photographs hidden in their garage. Most of them showed small children perform various sexual acts with adults. She recognized her husband, and their five-year-old niece. She left him, taking the photographs with her. He fears she may already have given them to the police.

Today he's sitting in their family room, realizing that his life is over, wondering if he has the courage physically to end it.

He doesn't

Isn't it beautiful?

Chapter 1





DELIRIUM: Do you remember?

DESPAIR: Remember what?

DELIRIUM: The name of the gunky jelly stuff in people's eyes?

DESPAIR: Virteous humor.

Chapter 1





She misses him. It is over three hundred years since last she and her brother were alone together... Like a flood, the memories come, and she is drowning in them. Against her will her chest heaves, and she begins to weep: deep, helpless, racking sobs...

Despair places the cold metal barb of her hook onto the surface of her eye. And then she pushes (piercing cornea and lens) and rips (freeing the aqueous humor and vitreous humor to run like tears down her cheek, into her hand)...

The pain distracts her, a little. But still, she remembers...

Chapter 1





DESTRUCTION: So, my sister. This is a good time for you. Are you pleased?

DESPAIR: Pleased, oh my Lord of Destruction? I am neither pleased nor displeased. I simply am.

Chapter 2





DESPAIR: Some things are changeless. People love, and die, they dream, destroy, despair, go mad. They fulfill their destinies, live out the course of their lives. We fulfill out function, as they fulfill theirs. That will not change.

Chapter 2





NUALA: Poor Lord Morpheus. He must be very sad.

MERVYN: Nah. He enjoys it. I mean, hell, it's a pose, y'know? He spends a coupla months hanging out with a new broad. Then one day the magic's worn off, and he goes back to work, and she takes a hike.

Now, guys like me, ordinary Joes, we just shrug our shoulders, say, hey, that's life, flick it if you can't take a joke.

Not him. Oh no. He's gotta be the tragic figure standing out in the rain, mournin' the loss of his beloved. So down comes the rain, right on cue.

In the meantime everybody gets dreams fulla existential angst and wakes up feeling like hell.

Chapter 2





TARAMIS: What will you have, ma'am?

DELIRIUM: Have you got any little milk chocolate people? About three inches high? Men and women? I'd like some of them filled with raspberry cream.

TARAMIS: Very good, ma'am. And to drink?

DELIRIUM: Fresh mango juice, please.

MORPHEUS: An omelette, a light salad, and a glass of white wine for me, Taramis.

Chapter 2





MORPHEUS: You worry too much, Lucien. I've noticed this before. After all, this is completely straightforward. What could possibly go wrong?

LUCIEN: Whatever you say, Lord. Whatever you say.

Chapter 2





There are not many of them, all things considered: the truly old. Even on this planet, in this age, when people consider a mere hundred years or a thousand, to be an unusual span.

There are, for example, less than ten thousand humanoid individuals alive on this planet today who have personal memories of the saber-toothed tiger, the megatherium, the cave bear.

There are today less than a thousand who walked the streets of Atlantis.

There are less than five hundred living humans who remember the human civilizations that predated the great lizards.

There are roughly seventy people walking the earth, human to all appearances (and in a few cases, to all medical tests currently available), who were alive before the earth had begun to congeal from gas and dust.

How well do you know your neighbors? Your friends? Your lovers? Walk the streets of any city, and stare carefully at the people who pass you, and wonder and know this:

There are there too. The old ones.

Chapter 3





BERNIE CAPAX: I don't believe it. I did it again, I did it a-friggin'-gain. I'm not even hurt.

DEATH: Well, that's one way of putting it. But your body is under there.

BERNIE CAPAX: No. Please. No. Not after all this time. I mean, a stupid accident. But I did okya, didn't I? I mean I got, what fifteen thousand years. That's pretty good isn't it? I lived a pretty long time.

DEATH: You lived what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime. No more. No less. You got a lifetime.

Chapter 3





DELIRIUM: What's the name of the word for the precise moment when you realize that you've actually forgotten how it felt to make love to somebody you really liked a long time ago?

MORPHEUS: There isn't one.

Chapter 3





DELIRIUM: Is there a word for forgetting the name of someone when you want to introduce them to someone else at the same time you realize you've forgotten the name of the person you're introducing them to as well?

MORPEUS: No.

Chapter 3





DESTRUCTION: Well? What do you think of it so far?

BARNABAS: I'm not much of an art critic.

DESTRUCTION: I'm not asking for art criticism, Barnabas. Merely for a few honest words of appreciation.

BARNABAS: Honestly? Well, the perspective's shot to Hell, the colors could be better chosen, and the olive tree on the left looks like an overgrown stinging nettle.

DESTRUCTION: Hmph. What the hell would you know? You're a dog.

BARNABAS: Did I ever say I wasn't?

DESTRUCTION: The colors could be better chosen my foot. Anyway -- I thought dogs were color blind.

BARNABAS: Yeah? That's a coincidence. I mean, looking at that painting I thought you were color blind.

Chapter 3





DESTRUCTION: You know, Barnabas, there are those who claim that for unquestioning respect and eternal devotion, all one needs is a dog.

BARNABAS: Hey, schmuck, Devotion you've got. Perjury isn't in the job description.

Chapter 3





DELIRIUM: That person. Farrell-mond. What was he?

MORPHEUS: He used to be a God. When we last met, in Babylon, his sacrifices were dwindling, and many of his shrines had already been abandoned. I merely suggested that he find himself another occupation.

DELIRIUM: Oh. I didn't know you could stop being a god.

MORPHEUS: You can stop being anything.

Chapter 3





LADY: ... these days I won't even let Chloe drink diet cola, because of the aspartame. I don't trust that shit.

Chapter 3





CHLOE: When I dream, sometimes I remember how to fly. You just lift one leg, then you lift the other leg, and you're not standing on anything, and you can fly. And then when I wake up I can't remember how to do it any more.

MORPHEUS: So?

CHLOE: So what I want to know is, when I'm asleep, do I really remember how to fly? And forget how when I wake up? Or am I just dreaming I can fly?

MORPHEUS: When you dream, sometimes you remember. When you wake, you always forget.

CHLOE: But that's not fair...

MORPHEUS: No.

Chapter 3





DELIRIUM: What are you looking at? You're looking for something. Aren't you? I mean, the way you keep looking at things. You're looking for... some... why don't you have proper eyes? Instead of those things? Everyone else in the family's got proper eyes. Um. Except Destiny.

MORPHEUS: Destiny is blind.

Chapter 4





RUBY: Listen. I couldn't help overhearing you earlier. You said destiny was blind. Well, didn't you mean love? It's love is blind. That's the saying, isn't it?

MORPHEUS: The subject is one I find entirely lacking in interest.

Chapter 4





DICKON HAWKSTHORNE: If the eyes are the windows of the soul, then your soul is black as the devil's arse-hole--

Chapter 4





DESTRUCTION: Times are changing, my brother... And this is what the invisible college has become. Have you been here before?

MORPHEUS: I do not believe so.

DESTRUCTION: They are using reason as a tool. Reason. It is no more reliable a tool than instinct, myth or dream. But it has the potential to be far more dangerous, for them. They are exploring and creating, defining and dissecting...

MORPHEUS: This is why you wished to speak to me? To show me that they are cutting up apes? That is nothing new. Do they think that they can impale the soul of it on their knives? That if they cut deep enough, they can extract its dreams, naked and writhing and screaming, from its head? Reason is a flawed tool at best, my brother.

Chapter 4





MORPHEUS: So they begin to reorganize their lives on principle of reason. Well, what of that? It does not affect my domain; and it will do little to yours that will not change once more. As you say, you have been here before. In many times, in many worlds.

DESTRUCTION: Aeon after aeon. From the dawn days when time was fresh-minted. And for how much longer?

MORPHEUS: As long as they need us.

DESTRUCTION: Are not light and gross bodies intraconvertible? Alas, they are. And from that follows the flames... the big bang. The loud explosions.

Chapter 4





DELIRIUM: Ruby's dead?

MORPHEUS: Yes.

DELIRIUM: Oh. Oh wow. That means I get to drive.

Chapter 4





TIFFANY: Why don't you dance as good as you can?

ISHTAR: Because they don't come to see that. They come to see tits and they come to see ass and legs and maybe a pretty face and a good head of hair would be nice. But they don't come to see us dance.

Chapter 5





TIFFANY: Ishtar? You know what I worry about? What if all men are shits. I mean, I've never met a guy who didn't come on like a knight on a while horse, and who didn't turn out to be pond scum.

Chapter 5





ISHTAR: A good man is hard to find, huh?

TIFFANY: Hey -- I used to have this shirt. It said, "A hard man is good to find."

Chapter 5





ISHTAR: I know how gods begin, Roger. We start as dreams. Then we walk out of dreams into the land. We are worshipped and loved, and take power to ourselves. And the one day there's no one left to worship us. And in the end, each little god and goddess takes its last journey back into dreams... and what comes after, not even we know.

Chapter 5





BARNABAS: Is that it?

DESTRUCTION: It is indeed.

BARNABAS: Ah. Well, at least it wasn't long.

DESTRUCTION: I take it you weren't overly impressed, then.

BARNABAS: Doggerel. Rubbishly doggerel.

DESTRUCTION: Really?

BARNABAS: Really. You also overuse the word "never" in the final stanza.

DESTRUCTION: Well, you'd know, eh? Doggerel? Eh?

BARNABAS: Spare me. So, what remarkable feats are we going to accomplish today?

DESTRUCTION: The usual. I'm going to work on a painting. You're going to sit in the sun, scratch for fleas, romp about, eat and sleep. Maybe you'll gaze up at me adoringly from time to time, my faithful hound.

BARNABAS: Hmph. In your dreams.

DESTRUCTION: I don't dream. Wouldn't do to give too much away. Especially not now.

BARNABAS: I don't see what you're so worried about.

DESTRUCTION: No? Ah, Barnabas, that's because you never met my family.

Chapter 6





MERVYN: Don't tell me -- he comes back and locks himself in this throne room. I've been here before, you've been here before, hell, we've all been here before. Next thing you know, he's gonna be mooning around again -- moon moon moon.

Hey, you ask me, I mean, okay, he's our boss. You know, right or wrong. But the guy's a flake. But I've been thinking about this -- you work with your hands you got a lot of time for thinking -- and what I figure is this. It's not his fault. Y'know? It's like, you hang out with poets and those guys, you're bound ta go a little flaky.

He oughta hang out with guys like me. The salt-a the earth. Real everyday Joes. Y'know? We'd set him straight.

Chapter 6





BARNABAS: This is another one of your ideas, isn't it? Like that thing you left in the garden.

DESTRUCTION: Thing? THING? Barnabas, that thing is a sculpture.

BARNABAS: What of? A big rock with holes in it?

DESTRUCTION: HAAA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'll tell you what, Barnabas. The hammer and chisel are outside in the hall. There's another marble block upstairs. Why don't you do your own sculpture, and I'll laugh at what you make?

BARNABAS: Hmph. Leaving aside the issue of hands, I have no desire to ruin a perfectly good piece of marble. Dogs have more sense. We don't make fools of ourselves like you do.

DESTRUCTION: Of course you don't.

Chapter 7





DESTINY: I am Destiny. I am what must happen, will it or not. And I am your brother. If I could live your life for you, I would. But that is not within my power.

MORPHEUS: Life, Brother? A strange way of describing our existence.

Chapter 7





DELIRIUM: Have you ever spent days and days and days making up flavors of ice cream that no one's ever eaten before? Like chicken and telephone ice cream?

MORPHEUS: No.

Chapter 7





MORPHEUS: The family? Little has changed since last we were together. Destiny is unchanged. Our older sister is well. Desire is... well, Desire is Desire. I have seen them all recently. And when last I saw Despair, she stated that she missed you.

DESTRUCTION: Poor Despair. I remember when first she assumed the mantle of Despair. When first she became Desire's Twin.

DELIRIUM: I don't think it was um. Easy for her.

MORPHEUS: It was not easy for any of us. It was the only time one of the Endless had been destroyed, that another aspect of one of us had reassumed the position: we all had much to adjust to.

Chapter 8





MORPHEUS: I have never needed you to instruct me on my duties, Brother: now, I would hazard, less than ever. I still perform my responsibilities, after all.

DESTRUCTION: I don't. Not any more. But you know that.

MORPHEUS: And what of your realm?

DESTRUCTION: I'm sure it's still here, in its fashion. People and things are created; still exist; are still destroyed. They tear down and they build. Things still change. The only difference is that no one's running it anymore. It's nothing to do with me any longer. It's theirs. They can make their own destruction. It's not my responsibility. And it's not my fault.

Chapter 8





MORPHEUS: My brother? How could you leave?

DESTRUCTION: How? Or why?

MORPHEUS: It makes no different.

DESTRUCTION: Because there's no such thing as a one-sided coin. Because there are two sides to every sky. Destruction did not cease with my abandonment of my realm, no more than people would cease to dream should you abandon yours. Perhaps it's more uncontrolled, wilder. Perhaps not. But it's no longer anyone's responsibility. I took my sigil with me: I didn't not pass it on.

Chapter 8





DESTRUCTION: I like the stars. It's the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean, they're always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend. I can pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives last longer than moments.

Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don't last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust.

But I can pretend.

Chapter 8





DESTRUCTION: Do neither of you ever just sit and remember? Just think back on times gone? All the living things whose lives you've touched? All the planets and spaces and planes you've seen? All the forms you've taken? Just sit and think?

Chapter 8





DESTRUCTION: Isn't it a wonderful night? It reminds me of something our sister once said to me.

MORPHEUS: And what was that?

DESTRUCTION: It was a long time ago, a long way from here. There were rather more stars in the sky. And we met, under the jewelled waterfalls. And we walked. And I told her how small I felt, how I wished I ... knew more, I suppose. We were looking up at the constellations -- the diamond girl, the wreath of bright stars, the crucible... It didn't matter that, in some sense, I was everywhere; nor that I was more powerful than... well, practically everything.

She said we all not only could know everything. We do. We just tell ourselves we don't to make it all bearable.

MORPHEUS: It sounds unlikely.

DESTRUCTION: That was what I said to her. I said, if they do that, why do they keep wandering around and falling down manholes and tripping on banana skins? Why does it seem like none of us -- Endless or mortal, ghost of god -- knows what we're doing.

MORPHEUS: And she said?

DESTRUCTION: I told you. She said everyone knows everything. We just pretend to ourselves we don't. I never knew what to make of that.

Chapter 8





MORPHEUS: Will you return? Will you reassume you role once more?

DESTRUCTION: Of course not.

DELIRIUM: I thought you would.

DESTRUCTION: I'm sorry, lassie.

MORPHEUS: But you are the Endless. We... We have responsibilities. You are the embodiment of Destruction. You are of the Endless.

DESTRUCTION: The Endless? The Endless are merely patterns. The Endless are ideas. The Endless are wave functions. The Endless are repeating motifs. The Endless are echoes of darkness, and nothing more. We have no right to play with their lives, to order their dreams and their desires. And even our existences are brief and bounded. None of us will last longer than this version of the universe.

DELIRIUM: Except out sister.

MORPHEUS: So we suppose.

DESTRUCTION: I filled my role more than adequately for over ten billion years. A two-sided coin: Destruction is needed. Nothing new can exist without destroying the old. Things are created. They last for some little while, and then they are gone. Empires, cities, poems and people. Atoms and worlds. One cannot begin a new dream without abandoning the last, eh, Brother? Our sister defines life, just as Despair defines hope, or Desire defines hatred, or as Destiny defines freedom.

MORPHEUS: And what do I define, by this theory of yours.

DESTRUCTION: Reality, perhaps.

Chapter 8





DESTRUCTION: My brother. There is nothing I can give you, save this: My advise. Remember what I did. Remember that I left. Remember how hard it was for me to leave: and that it was not your fault.

MORPHEUS: That is your advice?

DESTRUCTION: Indeed it is. Remember.

MORPHEUS: I am not in the habit of forgetting things.

DESTRUCTION: Dream, my brother. You forget nothing you have interest in; you forget instantly those things you do not care to know.

Chapter 8





MORPHEUS: What will you do now?

DESTRUCTION: I will make the most of what I've got. I shall live out my days doing what I have to do, one day at a time. Life, like time, is a journey through darkness.

Chapter 8





DESTRUCTION: Barnabas, my friend. Answer if you wish. Will you do with the Lady Delirium, walk beside her, tread the path that she treads also? Protect and lead and guide her?

DELIRIUM: I can't look after a doggie.

BARNABAS: You misheard him. I get to look after you.

DELIRIUM: Oh.

BARNABAS: I resent that remark.

DESTRUCTION: Of course you do. Well?

BARNABAS: Can't I go with you?

DESTRUCTION: You could not survive in the places I am travelling to.

BARNABAS: Oh. I see. Well, she shouldn't be allowed out of a leash. But I'll do what I can.

Chapter 8





MORPHEUS: Desire told me not to come looking for you.

DESTRUCTION: Desire was right. Also untrustworthy, acerbic, dangerous and cruel. But right.

Chapter 8





DESIRE: It's strange, my twin. I thought to be delightly to see this day. He's humiliated me. He's been rude and boorish. He's stuffy and stupid and thinks he knows everything. And there's just something about him that gets on my nerves. But I can't help feeling sorry for him. He was like a disaster waiting to happen.

DESPAIR: You cannot seek Destruction and return unscathed.

DESIRE: Delirium has.

DESPAIR: Delirium has been scathed enough in her time.

Chapter 9





MERVYN: Well, y'know. He's a good guy. But he, y'know, overreacts. One little thing goes wrong and he acts like the sky is falling. Like you accidentally put up one little forest where he was maybe expecting a laundry room and all of a sudden he's acting like it's a matter of life and death.

Real life. That's what guys like him never have to face up to. Real life.

Chapter 9








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