I’m reading A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness’ down-to-earth fantasy for young adults, about a boy who’s being haunted by a recurring nightmare, and an anthropomorphic tree that visits him at night.
Conor’s mum is dying, and every night he dreams of trying to hold on to her hand while she dangles off the edge of a precipice. Until along comes a yew tree in the shape of a man-monster, uprooted from the nearby churchyard, to tell Conor three stories and demand just one truth in return.
Author Siobhan Dowd created the concept for A Monster Calls when she, herself, had terminal cancer. Knowing she wouldn’t live long enough to write the book, she passed the idea on to Patrick Ness, who completed it after Siobhan’s monster has visited for the last time.
Ness uses Conor’s nightmares to explore the secret, unspeakable truths of how it feels to be losing the person closest to you. Guilty, rageful feelings that Conor would rather risk his own life than admit to.
So after reading this profoundly important tale of love and loss, imagination and rage, what does my mind come up with?
…I dreamt that I was applying mascara, and couldn’t keep from getting black scuff marks on my upper eyelid.
I mean, as nightmares go, I’ve had worse.
Thoroughly disappointed with my own apparent lack of depth or real sensitivity, I started getting ready for the new day. And reaching for my mascara wand, I saw this:
– illustration by Jim Kay, from A Monster Calls (2012)
Phrased like that, what dream-me did there seems entirely reasonable.
Mascara clumps. Nightmare.