TOBIAS WADE — 51 SLEEPLESS NIGHTS — 2017
Fifty-one does not have the ambition of one-thousand-and-one but in a way, it seems to be the same project except that the size of the stories may vary a lot from two pages to twenty. They all are united by some element of fear and horror, at times fright and terror, but the themes are changing a lot with some kind of a pattern. Let’s take some examples.
These stories are centered on characters who have something negative going on with their family circle when they have one, with themselves all the time especially when they are alone, and they are often alone, with their inner self as opposed to their outer self, and often their inner self takes its own life in its own hands and then the character is doubled-up and each half is autonomous with the ex-inner self taking over and creating some kind of havoc.
Don’t believe this author does not know his horror classics and particularly the rule Stephen King suggested a long time ago: a horror author has to try to horrify his audience at first. If he can’t then he can try to terrify his audience. And if he can’t even do that he can try to gross out his audience. The author here, like Stephen King, uses the three options in the book, but most of the time each story only has one dimension. Gross-out is common, terror is more difficult to reach and horror is a reward to the patient reader.
Gross-out is for me best represented by the story “Unborn Doll” in which a deranged teenage mother reveals her derangement is her pregnancy, and her family does not help who wants to get the child away, hence to abort it. The child has no father at all, never mentioned. The pregnant mother and later teenage mother has a mother and a father and both are absolutely hostile to her. The teenage mother will deliver a stillborn child that she will keep with her, dress up, pamper with makeup now and then perfume to cover up the rotting smell and the punchline is the most disgusting idea a mother can have: to sew up the mouth of this baby that cries at night. That punchline punches your good taste right in its stomach and down to its heels. But it reveals something. It seems to express the fright of society in front of such teenage pregnancies and at the same time their desire to solve the problem with stillborn babies for all of them, not abortion but a God-given or nature-provided form of abortion, but then all these mothers would get berserk and would have to be locked up sooner or later. That’s the worst part of it. And that grosses you out completely and you are then terrified because in real politics some may actually think of that as a solution to teenage pregnancies: stillborn births and the commitment of the mothers after birth.
In the same line, we could quote “Confessions of a Serial Killer” that explains how a father confessed, out of love for his daughter, having committed a long series of crimes perpetrated by his daughter. He is in prison probably under a death penalty sentence. He writes his confessions to his daughter and the letter is captured and confiscated when it was attempted to deliver it out of the prison. We learn from the cop taking care of the case that the daughter has disappeared. The crime of this daughter was a serial killing of young children. She captured them one by one and one after the other. She tortured them one after the other and one at a time and the main torture was to starve them to death or nearly so that the next one captured will have to eat what is still available on the body of the previous one who is not necessarily completely dead. Once again that is grossness more than terror. And that daughter is still running free.
The story reveals once again there is a strange desire in girls, the future life giving mothers. They want to capture children and torture them to death through hunger and cannibalism to punish them for having been born and having become a burden to their mothers, to women enslaved by that phenomenon. You find this theme of the enslaved mother over and over again.
The story “Vicarious” deals with a father but this time in his relation to his son. The story has a pattern. The father is too harsh with his son; too ambitious as for what he wants his son to accomplish; too reckless about his son and letting him try anything he wants with his bike; too self-satisfied with the son he produces with his own attitude and the good result he gets in his competition. Until one day it goes berserk when the son fails to get a victory. The son will go back to training, even harder and more recklessly, until one day there will be an accident. A big bad great fall into a ravine and like Humpty Dumpty the son is killed and yet a supernatural doppelganger survives who will take the full control of the father by satisfying the father’s desire for the son to get victories.
The pattern then is clear: to replace the “dead” son with some creature from hell who takes the son’s body and deemed the son to be and stay in hell. Like that there is no hope and the father lives in terror since this fake son will be able to get from him anything for him not to be obliged to admit publicly that his son is dead, and how could he prove and explain it?
Till, with no explanation, the sun comes back one day as a monster from hell and saves the situation: he expels the fake son and he himself goes back to hell to fight against these demons, Irosancts, who take over dead people to have a second life in the world. Their name is pure Latin, maybe, and may mean the saints born from angry greed if not greedy anger, stepping directly out from the medieval book of Christian exorcism.
How many fathers do this mistake of projecting their dreams into their sons? It fails most of the time and then the sons are forced by this failure to do what they, the sons, want to do, or rather what the circumstances the sons are in make them do, and that is not always very nice. Though there is one gram of hope here since this son back from the dead saves the father he should hate to the last minute of his eternal damnation. That’s the softening touch: supernatural, like a famous TV series, but in a mild version. The Winchester brothers would have destroyed the real son too since he is a monster from hell too: two monster-killing brothers destroying two monstrous brothers. Whoa!
The last example I will consider is “Virtual Terror.” It is the story of two brothers. One went to Afghanistan where he did bad things in his military missions. One day he questioned a man and tortured him to get the information he wanted by torturing the man’s son in front of him of course. No details possible here. In the end, he will get some information, good or bad does not matter, and the man and his son will be of course executed, disposed of like some waste. Torturing is a game as is well-known, a game with humans who have to be alive and it is all the more joyful if they are reactive in that lively game of torture. But this soldier ends badly due to an accident and he is in a wheel chair paralyzed the waist up. God’s punishment if you want.
His brother takes him to a Virtual Reality arcade and he has an adventure that ends badly, again. He has a fit of some epilepsy or whatever and he is taken back to his home by his brother. He tries to kill himself with some firearm but his brother intervenes and it is the brother who is killed. Then the paralyzed ex-soldier tries to kill himself again and only wounds his mouth and jaw without exploding his brain. He ends up in hospital with his father sneering at him with contempt and agony.
We are in a dual world again (and this duality is a pattern). First the two brothers, then the father and the surviving paralyzed brother. Contempt from the father, self-contempt from the paralyzed brother, fatherly love agony for the father and self-hate agony for the paralyzed brother. And finally the realization that hope and fear are the same thing. One hopes for something and that something is the source of one’s fear. Hope leads to fear, nourishes fear, nurtures fear, gives birth to fear. The story crystallizes the American drama. The post-Afghanistan-Iraq fear in 2008 brought hope to the White House, but this hope was partly dissatisfied, betrayed some say, and it gave birth to fear, nurtured that fear to the point of bringing the most fearful and fear-mongering nightmare to the same White House.
Is the world condemned to live in that dual vision? To be dismembered between oneself and a second “brother” or “virtual image” of ourselves? Between fear and hope? And yet the two are only one, the two sides of the same coin. God and his spirit on one side, and the absolutely unitary god on the other side. Judaism (Genesis 1:1–2) and Islam, with a vague Christian ternary pattern: father, son1, and son2, but either captured in a succession of two dualities or in a perverse ternary situation of torture.
Torturer T torturing a man’s son S to make the father F speak.
Binary couple: T — S
Binary couple: T — F
Binary couple: S — F
Note how this situation makes the torturing soldier be the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Christian Trinity: The Father F, the son S and the holy spirit T. This perversion of this sanctified Trinity is speaking to the reader so much that it could even become a haunting element.
This ternary pattern is always in the background, never central. The man and the devil speaking to the man in his head are the central elements. The man on the VR game-machine and the Japanese operator that more or less accompany him in his playing are central (Is the machine the ternary element? Then the Holy Spirit is not much if it is the machine, but if the machine is the Father, then the Japanese operator is the Holy Spirit, quite a surprising suggestion for a Buddhist and Zen character). The man and hope-fear concentrated in the VR helmet are the central elements. Are we condemned to live within this dual fake choice that leads to nothing except the perpetuity of the present survival instinct in which any ternary element is only one element used to pressurize another element in a triad because of the dual link between this element and the ternary element, the way I have explained for the torture situation?
To conclude I feel like saying this ternary torturing image of three binary relations that are the sides of a triangle of evil is the pattern of modern schizophrenia. We can just wonder if that is not a prediction about the future of the White House in the present more circumstantial than historical situation? Is Tobias Wade the prophet of a new age? We could believe that since Tobias-Tobit is a rather important (tough at times evanescent) character in the Old Testament as is clearly said in the following reference:
“The Book of Tobias, as it is called in the Latin Vulgate, is also known in the Greek Septuagint as the Book of Tobit, and serves as part of the Historical Books in the Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint Bible. Both the Hebrew origin of the book and the name Tobiah which means “Yahweh is my good” have been appreciated since antiquity . . . The recent discovery of five scrolls of Tobit — 4QTob 196–200 in both Aramaic and Hebrew among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave IV of Qumran has given the book renewed attention. As with all ancient texts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew was in consonantal form only. The Book of Tobit is also extant in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Syriac.” (http://biblescripture.net/Tobias.html)
And this Tobias Wade embodies the following prayer uttered by Tobias in his story:
“3 And now, O Lord, think of me, and take not revenge of my sins, neither remember my offenses, nor those of my parents. 4 For we have not obeyed thy commandments, therefore are we delivered to spoil and to captivity, and death, and are made a fable, and a reproach to all nations, amongst which thou hast scattered us. 5 And now, O Lord, great are thy judgments, because we have not done according to thy precepts, and have not walked sincerely before thee: 6 And now, O Lord, do with me according to thy will, and command my spirit to be received in peace: for it is better for me to die, than to live.” (The Book of Tobit or Tobias, 3:3–6)
Hope is definitely not the main quality of this life. But fear is definitely the best element of this book.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU