Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Tale of the Casual English Intellectuals Who Became the Sussex Wraiths (Episode 2 of 3)


Previously:
Episode 1: The Pipe-Smoking Casual English Intellectuals Fight for Seven Sinecures


Episode 2: The Night of the Strangulation Nightmares and the Infestation of the Sussex Wraiths

‘Father Joseph Kirkpatrick (he came originally from the nearby Scottish Coast) drank brandy with Mary Brandy and the rest of them at dusk, after the burial of John Barkley Towntower.
‘“These Apprehensions, which are sometimes known as the Nine Day Wonders, are frequent in history or at least in shadow-history,” he said. “Scarcely a century has been so poor that it has not had one or several of them. They are characterized by Pnigmophobia, both for the individual person and the world. I suppose that it’s really the contagion of a viral sickness. That being so, it will pass, and its dead will be buried, and the world will continue on its way. The fifth night of the sickness (that will be tonight, Friday night) is usually the worst, or that was the case in the epidemics of 1017, 1126, 1344, 1453, 1562, 1671, 1780, and 1889.”
‘“What happened to 1235?” Jane Hunting-Horn Chantal Ardri asked.
‘“The Thirteenth, the Holiest of Centuries, was spared the apprehensive sickness,” Father said. “But Friday night, the fifth night, is usually the worst for the victims. That is the night of the nightmares, of the deliriums, and of the deaths. The people have nightmares that they are choking to death, and so they do choke to death, a few millions of them, in their violent sleep. On the Friday night of the Strangle-Death of the year 1344, thirteen million died in Europe alone. The failure of the worldwide input is only the failure of grace. But you people here, being intellectually active, do not sleep much at night anyhow. Oh, one or two or three of you may die tonight (after you make your midnight jump I believe), but the rest of you should survive with minimal impairment. Bonfires are good to keep off the nightmares. And yes, young girl, hunting-horns. I see that you have yours about your neck.”
‘“Do you believing in Giants?” Jane Hunting-Horn Chantal asked.

‘“Of course I believe in giants. My own great-grandfather was a giant. And I myself am quite tall, six feet and five inches.”
‘“I mean the Writing Giants who write the world?”
‘“They would have no power if it were not given to them from above. Locally, in the Islands and the Scandinavias and all shores of the North Sea, a Friday Night feature of the disease is the Infestation of the Sussex Wraiths. It is said that they take their bat-flights from the ancient Evenrood Manor in England. But they are not world-wide, or perhaps they are known by other names in other parts of the world. Good night all. I must go to an early bed. I anticipate a number of funerals tomorrow. Oh, it will probably take the remaining four days of the week to bury all of those who die on this Night of the Strangulation. Be cheerful all, and walk in the Faith and the Light.”
‘Mary Brandy told the people to have bonfires burning all that night. “You don’t have to tell us that. This is Friday night,” said Mayor Haggerty of Port Erin. “Bonfires indeed,” agreed Mayor McEnglish of Castletown, “and hunting horns.”
‘“Yes, and penny-whistles,” said Gregory O’Growley who was the political opposition in Port Saint Mary. “The new tune Friday at Port Saint Mary for Three Penny-Whistles will help keep the strangulation away.”
‘“Oh well, the Night of the Strangle-Deaths might as well be a fun night,” Monika Pantera said. “How many hunting horns do you have in your house, Mary Brandy?”
‘“Oh, five or six, surely. But several of them may be out of tune.”
‘“I want one out of tune,” said Drusilla Evenrood. “I’ll show those Sussex Wraiths who are giving my Manor a bad name! I’ll split their ears!”
‘“You’ll not be able to do that,” said Solomon Izzersted who had become a know-it-all since he was an unattached man. “They are bat-wings and they will have bat ears. When you hit the highest note that the hunting horn has, you’re just getting to the edge of their country. They are at home with the really high and ear-splitting frequencies. But they are no more than comic characters if you are able to take them as such, small pipe-smoking, squeaking bats, who claim that they are giants, such are the Sussex Wraiths, in legend at least.”
‘There is not much difference between the tunes Friday at Port Saint Mary for Three Penny-Whistles and Friday at Port Saint Mary for Three Hundred Hunting-Horns. They enlivened the air, and the bonfires illuminated the night…
‘The Sussex Wraiths began to come. Bat-wings indeed! Many of them had the pipe-smoking faces of those neo-giants, the dead Roderick Outreach and the live Sandra Ott. “We are not wraiths, we are not bats,” the wraiths said. “We are angels or messengers sent out to effect the writs of the New Giants. We are the motivation of the world. We are the future of the world.”
‘Nah, they lied. They were bats.
‘Hunting-horn blowing takes a lot of breath, and some of the people, with the strangulation fear upon them, had to abandon it. And some of the people did begin to have the delirium-nightmares while still walking about. They passed into fevered sleep-walking. They had nightmares that they were choking to death, and so they did choke to death in their violent walking sleep. But this did not happen to many of them, only thirteen in the whole three towns that whole night. It would have been much worse if they hadn’t had the bonfires and penny-whistles and hunting horns.’
-R. A. Lafferty, East of Laughter (1988), pp. 118-120


Next:
Episode 3: ‘My writing will eclipse your writing, and my snakes will eat up your snakes’

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)