Title: Ever Happily, Chapter 1
Summary: Memories, like dreams, can play tricks on you.
Author's Note: This story was originally very long, but I decided to break it up into several smaller parts. They're related, but not sequential. They don't form any particular story arc. They're just pieces of Barnabas, his life with Delirium, his life before Delirium, and what it's like to look at the Endless from the outside.
This particular one came about because Neil Gaiman, in his eternal wisdom, never told us where Barnabas came from, or how he got to where he did.
Barnabas entered the world in the general whenabouts of the nineteenth century (the exact year he doesn't know, and never did). He remembers, fuzzily, the not-quite-yet America that welcomed him with stink and squalor upon his birth. He remembers the dark and festering alleyway in which he had been whelped, along with two brothers and a sister whom he supposed had long since died.
He remembers the flea-infested fur and the warm heat of his mother, a mortal mangy German Shepherd bitch. She had growled to him in dog-tongue about his father, a wolf god of the red-skinned tribes who was being driven towards the sea and bludgeoned to death by the cross; he had chased and won half the bitches in the city and then departed.
Barnabas remembers the long, lightning-lit years of the old millennium. He remembers the dodging and hiding and scrounging for food, he remembers never staying in one place long enough to see his friends (or what passed for friends) wither and die. He remembers listening with ears pricked, under carriages and around corners, easily understanding the strange man-tongues that his companions could never decipher.
In those days he was nameless, wandering streets that all began to blur together, living by his wits and by his sarcasm, whispering to crazy old men in alleyways because they were the only ones who would believe a dog could talk.
He still remembers the day he met Destruction.
It had been a long and dreary day without any distinction whatsoever. He had been stretched out at the entrance of his then-den, a construction of cardboard boxes that kept him dry if not warm, when a big red-furred man carrying a knapsack had rounded the corner, tripped over his tail, turned and apologized in easy, fluent dog-tongue, not stumbling over the snarls and growls. (Barnabas learned later that the Endless can speak all languages, for they speak to something other than the ears, other than the mind).
And Barnabas had answered him in human-tongue, because if the stranger was courteous enough to speak in a dog's native language, then Barnabas could certainly return the favor. The big red-furred man had been thunderstruck for a moment, then had thrown his head back and roared with delight, a bellow loud enough and resonant enough to uproot trees.
From that moment on Barnabas had had a name, a home of sorts, and a friend. It had been wonderful, ecstatic, to have a purpose, and a name, and a steady companion, in the midst of crowds that sprang up and vanished again in the blink of a century. He remembers being happy, for the first time, with a steady, comfortable, dependable life.
Now he lives in a place that only occasionally remembers to be a place and not something else (for one memorable day it was a fish). His dearest companion is a girl whose hair resembles a drunk and reeling rainbow, a girl who is liable to turn into a chocolate banana when she forgets herself, which is often. His name is gone, still existing only in a small place in his own mind; Delirium calls him only 'doggy'. All traces of stability and normality are gone from his life.
And he loves it, loves living with Delirium and chasing her around candy-cane forests that are painted in Halloween colors, loves licking chocolate from her fingers only to find that it tastes like broccoli, if the broccoli had first been singed to a crisp and plunged into a vat of sugar.
For most of his life he remembers having been willing to give up anything for stability, and now he loves living what is arguably the least stable place-fish in the multiverse. He wonders why.
Tune in next week... but first, review, please.