It was with bated breath that I flipped to the first page of Neil Gaiman's 'Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances'. A new collection of 23 short stories and poems. New! Well, 24 if you count the introduction and backstories that are more than worth a glance. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)
Overhyped? Perhaps. I don't care. I've always been a fan of his writing. Some stories are going to be mediocre. Unless they truly suck, I'm going to read them all and love them. A number of the stories have been previously published, for example, 'The Sleeper and the Spindle', 'Witch Work', 'Observing the Formalities', 'Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale', 'My Last Landlady', etc, but the rest are new to me. At the start, the author explains the motives and theme of this collection of stories, of human choices and the development of each plot.
And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.
The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mold beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.
What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.
I blew on my hands, to dry the sweat before I began to climb. "I will come back for you," I said. "With ropes. I have sworn."
"When?" he asked, and he closed his eyes.
"In a year," I told him. "I will come here in a year."
I began to climb. The man's cries followed me as I stepped and crawled and squeezed and hauled myself up the side of that mountain, mingling with the cries of the great raptors; and they followed me back from the Misty Isle, with nothing to show for my pains and my time, and I will hear him screaming, at the edge of my mind, as I fall asleep or in the moments before I wake, until I die.