{Feature} On Jerusalem Street: Alan Baxter – The Books Of Blood Advent Calendar (Door 24)

The Books Of Blood Advent Calendar

Door 24

The Book Of Blood (A Postscript): On Jerusalem Street

Alan Baxter

KR: Door 23: Cabal – Jo Blair

The Book Of Blood (A Postscript): On Jerusalem Street

The dead have highways. They run, unerring lines of ghost-trains, of dream carriages, across the wasteland behind our lives, bearing an endless traffic of departed souls. They have sign-posts, these highways, and bridges and lay-bys. They have turnpikes and intersections.

It was at one of these intersections that Leon Wyburd caught sight of the man in the red suit. ..Leon in turn told of his last moments.

It was a great relief to tell the story. Not because he wanted to be remembered, but because the telling relieved him of the tale. It no longer belonged to him, that life, that death. He had better business, as did they all. Roads to travel; splendours to drink down. He felt the landscape widen. Felt the air brightening.

What the boy had said was true. The dead have highways.

Only the living are lost.” – Clive Barker

So we reach the end. Or do we? You may remember my post about the first story in this series, “The Book of Blood”. The story that opened Barker’s debut collected works and opened so many minds too.

After six short volumes of mind-bending horror and dark fantastique, we reach the last few pages and it says, “The Book of Blood (a postscript): On Jerusalem Street”. A postscript?

Wyburd arrives. We have no idea who he is, but we learn later he’s an assassin. He didn’t believe the Book of Blood was real until he met the man, but young Simon McNeal isn’t really a young man anymore. He’s transcended that. He doesn’t even refer to himself, except in the third person. He’s changed, deeply and irrevocably. He’s the Book of Blood now, still raw, still weeping after all these years. “The stories go on, night and day,” McNeal tells Wyburd. “Never stop. They tell themselves, you see. They bleed and bleed. You can never hush them; never heal them.”

Yet despite this, McNeal is only of any real value to a skin collector in Rio. And not even the boy himself, or his experience, just his skin.

Not unlike us, the reader, irrevocably changed by our journey through the Books of Blood, but are we worth more? That doesn’t really matter. It’s the stories that matter. Those stories are written on us now, and that’s Barker’s real magic. Not so literally, of course, but no less permanently, Barker’s stories are carved into our souls. You can’t read the Books of Blood and not be changed by them somehow. By telling us McNeal’s fate at the end of the collection after using his folly to open us up, Barker has proven how stories will always continue to tell themselves. And how willingly we let them in.

But despite the boy’s willingness to be slain at the end, and Wyburd’s professionalism at the task, the stories won’t stand for it. Over night they bleed and bleed, the blood filling the room from the suitcase where Wyburd stored the freshly flayed skin. Blood pouring out “as if a hundred atrocities were being committed within”. Those atrocities are the stories refusing to be silenced. Demanding to be told. And then Wyburd is drowned in the blood and he joins the highways of the dead, where his relief is only found when he finally tells his story.

Because the stories must be told. They bleed and bleed. That’s the incontrovertible truth for all of us. We’re all stories and we all want ourselves to be told. To be remembered, perhaps.

“Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red”

Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a multi-award-winning author of horror, supernatural thrillers, and dark fantasy liberally mixed with crime, mystery, and noir. He’s also a martial arts expert, a whisky-soaked swear monkey, and dog lover. He creates dark, weird stories among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, where he lives with his wife, son and hound. Find him online at www.alanbaxter.com.au

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