LP: Dead Can Dance by Dead Can Dance
2016 4AD Records, CAD 3622, reissue
Favorite Track: A Passage in Time
Wendell Christmas sat on the stalled train, watching the cardinals flash red past his finger-spotted window. Just once he would like to fly…feathery wings growing from the curve of his back, flapping powerfully so as to sweep away all the dust at his feet as they slowly left the earth…just once he would like to fly back home to Buffalo. Instead the train lurched forward and the cardinals became faded brown dots in violet dusk.
He knew he should get some rest. Tomorrow he would start his week tracking turkeys, possums, and foxes. A customer of his had wanted him to bag and stuff a stag, but Wendell laughed and said he did not have the materials necessary. However, something bothered him about shooting a noble deer. As a child, he would explore the woods of his pappy’s farm and the deer would always find him by the lake, approached tentatively, but always approached and stood by him, sometimes drinking out of his cupped hands, all the time breathing heavily while their big black orbs tried to convey some natural message. Wendell used to believe it was his mother possessing the Cervidae, attempting to communicate supernaturally with her son. Wendell fumed over what he would say to her incorporeal spirit. Five years was not enough, yet, in an impassive way, he wouldn’t know what more he could say to her.
It was dark when the train pulled into the station. An active owl hooted like a watchman over the cold tracks and fallen pine needles. Wendell slung his heavy bag over one shoulder and made his way to the hotel. He would camp tomorrow, but now was too dark for him to find a safe spot by the river. Plus, a gloomy disposition had settled over him like a fog rolling off the water and into bay. A question nagged him: was his interest in taxidermy merely a coping mechanism for the death of his mother? He tried to tell himself many things: electrical and mechanic repair were hobbies that paid bills and tabs; there is a calming effect scooping out the entrails of a fresh kill; the complimentary thanks of a satisfied customer made his soul glide above snow-peaked mountains; the danger of the hunt and the silence of ambush; his mother had left the earth and it didn’t matter anymore and all Wendell had to worry about was feeding himself and satisfying his customers and be wary not to fall in love. The owl hooted again and then surprised Wendell by flying out with far-reaching wings. Its eyes were the color of squash and its flight took him right over Wendell’s tall frame. As it went past, he could have sworn a sweet, raspy voice squawked, “Sunrise…”
At the hotel, Wendell climbed into bed after washing his hands with the soap he brought with him The mattress was hard, but Wendell expected worse. After a few moments of adjusting and relaxing, he reached for the Weird Tales magazine he brought with him. It was the black-bordered October 1923 issue. The frightening image of a snowbound ship and, presumably, the captain forced to walk the plank caught his eye at the newsstand. What strange and horrible stories this Edwin Baird published. Wendell felt a little rebellious collecting these pulps. His father would flay his skin with a poker if he knew.
Tonight, by candlelight, Wendell read a short story by a newcomer: H.P. Lovecraft. The tale was titled Dagon. When he was done, he took the candle to a window and stared out into the darkness, hoping to see the river in the distance. Nothing but tall trees with extended limbs greeted his vision. A slight breeze made every branch sway like a mummy’s outstretched arms. Wendell shook his head, but couldn’t laugh. An owl swooped by, catching a fat mouse that gave little squeal. He was sure it was the same owl and he knew for certain that he would see this same owl every night this week.
Who hunts the hunters? was his last thought before a queer sleep overtook him.