The Crystal Prison | Chapter 8

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

It was at times like these, when the peace and beauty of Fennywolde were overpowering, that she thought it might not be so bad to spend the rest of her days there.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I may have sided with Audrey over the potions last chapter, but her rebuttal of Akkikuyu here is rather more selfish and cannot really be overlooked. It’s testament to Audrey’s fundamentally good heart that she instantly feels terrible for rejecting Akkikuyu, but her regret doesn’t excuse her refusal to at least practice some patience when Akkikuyu is clearly suffering.

All of this is grist for the mill of Audrey’s character, however. As we saw in The Dark Portal, she is not completely sweet-natured, accommodating, and thoughtful. She can be, but if she were only those things, she would not be Audrey at all, nor indeed a particularly realistic character.

Then we’ve got Akkikuyu and Nicodemus. Holy gosh darn golly gee did this scene horrify me as a child! I hated frightening faces for a start, and there’s something about the reveal that the voice is actually coming from the tattoo on Akkikuyu’s ear that’s just so intimately abhorrent that it makes me shudder. There’s no way out for her, she and the insidious voice are joined together permanently. Visceral horror at its finest!

In that scene we also get another occult incantation, almost a mirror of the one which takes place between Jupiter and Morgan on Blackheath in Chapter 10 of The Dark Portal. Though not quite as cataclysmic as the Blackheath ritual, this one is certainly unnerving in its execution and effects. Why should Nicodemus, a benign spirit of nature, feel the need to invoke ‘slaughterous cold and searing ice’? Why does he alternately berate and beguile Akkikuyu? And why does the corn dolly require blood to be brought to life?

Finally, on reread, I noticed that during the incantation to join the corn dolly back together, Nicodemus has Akkikuyu call upon Brud to ‘make whole again your effigy.’ Being aware that Robin loves to reference history and folklore in his naming conventions, I had a rummage around Google to see whether the mysterious Brud might be a fictionalisation of a folkloric spirit or deity. Sadly I didn’t find anything exact – the closest I could get was Brigid (Braid, Brìde), an Irish/British pagan goddess for whom corn figures were (and are) woven during her festival in early February. If anybody has further knowledge on this subject (or if Mr Jarvis himself would like to wade in) that would be fantastic.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: And there it is – that turning point. That moment where Audrey’s compassion falters for a moment. And that moment is all it takes. It’s that familiar Jarvis moment: the ‘Uh oh’. The ‘no, no, no’. The ‘this is going to get a lot worse’.

It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book, in many respects: Person A is unkind to Person B. Person B goes off and triggers off a whole mess of trouble which they otherwise wouldn’t have done. But clichés work because they tap into universal experiences. We’ve all had a moment in the past where we were more unkind to someone than we should have been. We wonder what it might have been like if we could go back and do things differently.

That said, we possibly didn’t have the person we were unkind to stalk off and have devious conversations with a tattoo on their ear …

The naming of this character, by the way – Nicodemus – is also a darkly brilliant choice, but I might come back to that topic at a later stage. For now, I’ll just let the dread start to sink in …

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One thought on “The Crystal Prison | Chapter 8

  1. Daaaaawww! Thank you so much for validating me, Aufwader! You’ve no idea how much of a relief it is to know I’m not the only person who feels severely creeped out by the mere thought of a sentient tattoo that whispers slyly to its owner when she’s alone. Whenever Nicodemus talks, it feels like a spider just crawled into my own ear. Perhaps we should consider setting up a support group aimed at people who’ve been scarred by the seriously creepy stuff that unfolds in these books? Come to think of it, isn’t that exactly what this blog is? To anyone else who’s reading The Deptford Mice for the first time, just know that you’re not alone as you brave the horrors ahead! We’re all here for you!

    Although my response to the disturbing revelation of where the spooky voice had been coming from was “AUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!” I have to give Mr Jarvis a shaky thumbs up. We believed that the voice was speaking to her from inside her head and so it comes as a huge shock when the truth finally hits us like the answer to a creepy riddle that might be an illustration from Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Looking back, we understand why Nicodemus made sure to hold his inky tongue and speak only when Akkikuyu was alone. Because he’s speaking through the face tattooed on her ear and dare not risk being spotted by the mice who would have sat up and taken notice pretty quickly if they’d seen the its painted lips moving. Well played, Mr Jarvis! What would have happened if Audrey had walked in on Nicodemus crooning to Akkikuyu as she tossed and turned, trying to escape from the ear that whispers? Would she have gone running to scream for help? Would Mr Kemp have responded by pulling a knife from one of those many bags of his and telling Akkikuyu that this would only hurt for a moment?

    Aufwader and Matt are both right in pointing out the tragedy of Akkikuyu falling prey to the voice of Nicodemus after she has been sent away so cruelly by Audrey. I never thought about it before but yeah, this does mark the moment when the Crystal Prison train pretty much begins its descent into sheer terror. Am I the only one who can’t help thinking of a parent who comes home from work and unkindly tells her daughter not to bother her because momma’s too tired right now? I always imagined that there was just the faintest hint of a sarcastic sneer in Audrey’s voice when she suggested that Akkikuyu go and mix up a potion to soothe her poor aching ear. Perhaps the memory of that embarrassing scene which unfolded as Audrey tried to stop Akkikuyu from giving the potion to Young Whortle, only to wind up completely humiliating herself in front of a sea of watching field-mice, was still raw in the mouse maid’s mind. Audrey was emotionally exhausted after what was a distressing day for her but snapping at the post Dark Portal Akkikuyu is like being mean to a puppy who comes skipping up to wag her tail and lick you. Yes, if only our heroine had consented to climb down from her nest and keep the rat woman company for the night. Who can say how much evil and sorrow might never have come to pass? One passing moment of selfishness may seem like a small thing but as we witness in this chapter, it’s the small things that can unleash truly ghastly consequences down the line.

    The entire chapter is soaked in a downright eerie tone which comes seeping from the revelation of how Nicodemus has been speaking with Akkikuyu and the incantation he uses to breath unnatural life into the wrecked body of the corn dolly which caused so much discord in The Hall Of Corn. There’s something inherently creepy about objects that are inanimate and should flipping well stay that way, thank you very much, engaging in the type of behavior they have no earthly business doing AKA moving around as if they’re alive. When it comes to the Akkikuyu waltzing with the corn dally, I always feel a shiver run through me as I imagine that twisted mockery of life jerking its limbs around like a character spawned by early stop-motion animation. Anyone who’s familiar with stop-motion will know exactly what I mean…

    What sort of entity Brud happens to be is a question that I’ve mulled over myself on plenty of occasions. Akkikuyu is so overcome with wonder by everything Nicodemus tells her that she barely questions what goes on. But those of us who don’t have the mind of an child trapped in an adult’s body will see right away why summoning an unknown being from the other side and cramming it in a physical form is…heh, heh, heh…an unwise decision to say the least. Just saying, folks. Don’t come cryin’ to me if you go dabblin’ with the dark arts and get burned as a result because I’m not touchin’ that with a ten-foot mouse-peeler.

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