The Islanders Week 11: Seevl (Dead Tower) THE GLASS

0

Summary

  • This weeks lone entry is composed of a short story called THE GLASS, which is the first-person account of Torm, a native of Goorn who has returned to the island to settle the affairs of his suddenly-deceased parents.
  • He had been away at a southern university, studying the manufacture of glass, and in particular been involved in a laboratory work placement, working on a new type of borophosphosilicate glass (BPSG).
  • Having settled his parents affairs, we was planning to leave when he ran into an old school friend, Alvasund Raudeberg, a theatre arts professional. He found his interest in her re-ignited, and when she invited him to come to Orsknes on the north coast, he accepted.
  • They drive north to Orsknes and eventually settle into a hotel. Torm's sexual tension has been building, and when their new room has one double bed, his anticipation mounts. But that night, Alva lays a bolster down the middle of the bed to separate them. She tells him they are just friends. He can see her naked, but can't (and shouldn't expect to) touch her. She tells him to imagine there's a sheet of glass between them.
  • The next day, they visit an unfinished JORDENN YO tunnel. She is moved by the experience. Him, not so much.
  • On their walk walk back, they run into an old friend of Alva's - a man named Marse. Marse's behavior is oddly standoffish. We learn that he's the source of a job that Alva is investigating, but instead of being helpful, he is alienating. Alva carelessly refers to Torm as 'her ride' and he takes offence. Seeing the writing on the wall, he decides to leave.
  • When they return to the rental house, Torm's frustration simmers to the surface and they argue for a time, then reconcile. Alva reveals more about the mysterious job.
  • Her job prospect is actually on the island of Seevl, working for 'The Intercession Authority'. The post has something to do with the 3D imaging of an old tower - something her theatre arts skills are uniquely suited for. She's to 'audition' for this post by showing what she can do with a similar tower located here in Orsknes.
  • That evening, the bolster is back in the bed, but Alva removes the barrier between them and they cuddle, and later make love in the night.
  • The next day, they go to the local tower together so she can image it. Torm helps Alva with her high tech equipment. Both feel an oppressive sense of unease and can't wait for the task to be done before they leave.
  • Once the scan is done, she compiles the data. It reveals that there's a living entity inside the tower, coiled and writhing, filling the tower. When they look through a gap in the rocks, they see nothing. But the equipment, which 'picks up traces of viability' , reveal it.
  • Suddenly, she is inside the tower and screaming at him. He sees her through the hole in the rock. A glass-like barrier seals her inside. She seems to be screaming, and against all logic, he witnesses her age and approach the end of her life. He runs to the laptop and starts to pull cables out. Suddenly, she is out again.
  • They return to the car and sit together for a time, shaken. She reveals that her experience was the equal and opposite of his - that he was the one in the tower, and she witnessed him approach death. Disturbed, they return to town.

...

  • Six days pass in a sort of fugue before The Intercession Authority confirms Alva's position on a probationary basis. She is to form part of a team studying more towers on Seevl. The job offer acknowledges risk, but offers assurances.
  • They read through the documents, one of which is an illustrated history of the towers. Not much is known about them, but the locals have obviously tried to tear them down over the centuries.
  • Alva accepts the job, and Torm agrees to go with her to Seevl. After a number of bureaucratic delays involving inscrutable customs officials and poorly driven ferries, they make it to Jethra where they run into Marse again, who is much changed - apparently affected by psychosis after holding the same position for the last year that Alva is about to take. Alva is once again assured there are new protections in place, and is determined to go through with the contract.
  • After more douanier scares, they arrive of Seevl by boat. They notice that Seevl town is surrounded by these towers, which vary in shape - round, square, or octagon in footprint. The feeling of oppression returns.
  • Alva and Torm head to their appointed apartment and are pleased to find that it's shielded from the psychic energy of the towers. Shielded by BPSG, Torm notes. The next day, Alva tries on her protective gear and the visor is similarly made of BPSG.
  • They settle into a routine - she goes to work with the team on 'deconstruction' projects. Torm takes to having long walks, and eventually gets used to the oppressive feeling so it no longer bothers him. He walks frequently to one of the deconstructed towers.
  • Alva and her teammates have not gotten used to the oppression, and seem some R&R off island. Torm stays behind.
  • Torm revisits the tower and slowly starts building it again by reassembling the un-broken stones. Sitting inside, he imagines being able to look out. He heads to the Intercession Authority's lockup and takes a pieces of BPSG back up to the tower, where he makes a window. Then he sits inside and waits for Alva's return.

Questions/Discussion

  • We have many familiar elements in this story - the use of glass, the north coast of Goorn, and a theatre arts graduate. But the context is entirely different from that of the murder of Commis the Mime. How is their use different?
  • Presumably, at some point you expected this story to re-visit the Commis murder. Were you surprised when it didn't?
  • Any thoughts on what might be within the towers?
  • Sheets of glass as see-through barriers are a big feature of this story. What is being separated? Is it the same thing each time? How does this relate to the theme of permeable barriers?
  • How did the incidental events contribute to the story? The behavior of customs agents, or of Marse, or Alva's and Torm's educational background, for example?

Comments

  • 1

    Yes, I was expecting the story to connect to the Commis murder. It's at about the same time, though: Torm's journey to Seevl was delayed by a ferry accident, presumably the same one that got Sington fired. There are other similarities, such as the chance and aggressive meeting, in the street, with Marse.

    Glass barriers is a theme, but the BPS glass takes it further, being permeable and impermeable to different things from normal glass. I think we're supposed to connect the glass to Commis.

    This story also returns to psychic phenomena, as mentioned when Caurer visited Kammeston's study. What are the things in the towers? To be honest, I don't much care. I don't see how they connect to anything else going on.

  • 0

    I was also expecting a direct link to the death and was pleasantly surprised. It is clear that CP is deliberately messing with the readers' heads here - Torm's feelings of surprise about the rather pleasant nature of the land which he had anticipated being a military zone under a kind of martial law surely echo those of readers by this time. And the perspective of the islands as rather quaint and humorous, as seen from the mainland, is an entertaining echo of our own speculations.

    To my mild surprise, BPSG is a real thing in our world, turning up largely in heat-resistant glassware - kitchen ware such as the brand name Pyrex, the coating of the space shuttle heat shield, and so on. As well as having interesting electrical properties which Torm was studying. It seems a credible reach to have it also doing something as a psychic protector. Either way, it enriches the range of metaphoric points of contact for glass.

    I particularly liked the way glass as metaphor means something quite different to Alvasund and Torm - barrier or active transmission element. A nice touch. It wasn't clear to me why Alvasund would so suddenly capitulate her resistance to him and - so to speak - remove the glass sheet.

    I also felt the story showed again how CP really doesn't like closure - the story ends with no closure for the couple, and none for the reader. I suspect this wil be a common theme and will be echoed in the book as a whole (on the other hand, how could a real gazetteer exhibit closure in the sense that a novel does?)

    Like @NeilNjae I wasn't bothered by the psychic stuff and can't see quite how it connects. There is a motif in western literature about the North being a place of both personal testing and magical mystery - Game of Thrones was only the latest in a long literary tradition showing both of these trends. So the weird psychic manifestations could just be another part of this, along with the sinister northern wind that the story has near its start. In that sense psychic stuff book-ends the story - the wind near the beginning, and the tower occupants near the end.

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:
    I particularly liked the way glass as metaphor means something quite different to Alvasund and Torm - barrier or active transmission element. A nice touch. It wasn't clear to me why Alvasund would so suddenly capitulate her resistance to him and - so to speak - remove the glass sheet.

    I read that as a fairly mercenary move on her part. Torm was about to leave her stranded, so she traded sex for him staying. That's not to say she wasn't attracted to him anyway, but I thought there was some calculation in it too.

    Like @NeilNjae I wasn't bothered by the psychic stuff and can't see quite how it connects. There is a motif in western literature about the North being a place of both personal testing and magical mystery - Game of Thrones was only the latest in a long literary tradition showing both of these trends. So the weird psychic manifestations could just be another part of this, along with the sinister northern wind that the story has near its start. In that sense psychic stuff book-ends the story - the wind near the beginning, and the tower occupants near the end.

    That's a motif I wasn't aware of, but it's obvious now it's pointed out. Thanks!

  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    Questions/Discussion

    • We have many familiar elements in this story - the use of glass, the north coast of Goorn, and a theatre arts graduate. But the context is entirely different from that of the murder of Commis the Mime. How is their use different?

    I don't really understand the question. These are obviously different stories, why would the use of these elements be the same?

    • Presumably, at some point you expected this story to re-visit the Commis murder. Were you surprised when it didn't?

    No. I've decided to treat each chapter as entirely unrelated to anything else. It helps immensely for me enjoying it.

    • Any thoughts on what might be within the towers?

    At the end, Torn. Presumably others like him in the other towers. Which begs the question of how is Torn - now a tower creature - writing this so that it appears in a guide book, but since this is just a piece of fiction in a short story collection it doesn't matter and it's all fine.

    • Sheets of glass as see-through barriers are a big feature of this story. What is being separated? Is it the same thing each time? How does this relate to the theme of permeable barriers?

    Not a question for me to answer!

    • How did the incidental events contribute to the story? The behavior of customs agents, or of Marse, or Alva's and Torm's educational background, for example?

    They ratchet up the tension on a cool spooky story.

  • 0

    @clash_bowley said:

    @Apocryphal said:
    Questions/Discussion

    • We have many familiar elements in this story - the use of glass, the north coast of Goorn, and a theatre arts graduate. But the context is entirely different from that of the murder of Commis the Mime. How is their use different?

    I don't really understand the question. These are obviously different stories, why would the use of these elements be the same?

    Because there are certain common themes emergent from the stories in the book. He hasn't used all these things in two different stories by accident. But in the theatre hand short story, the one with The Lord of Mystery, the glass was used metaphorically to separate the two main characters. In the story about the murder of Commis, it was used to kill Commis. In this story, it starts as a separation, but then at the end was used as a window - one that Torm will use to draw Alva into his influence at the end. So I asked the question, in case someone sees meaning in this. I'm not usually the first to notice these things, but other club members often present interesting insights.

    • Presumably, at some point you expected this story to re-visit the Commis murder. Were you surprised when it didn't?

    No. I've decided to treat each chapter as entirely unrelated to anything else. It helps immensely for me enjoying it.

    I'm glad you're able to find something in it to like.

    • Any thoughts on what might be within the towers?

    At the end, Torn. Presumably others like him in the other towers. Which begs the question of how is Torn - now a tower creature - writing this so that it appears in a guide book, but since this is just a piece of fiction in a short story collection it doesn't matter and it's all fine.

    "What? I got better." - Monty Python
    Actually, it just occurred to me that Turm is 'Tower' in German, and 'turn' is tower in Icelandic and Romanian, 'torn' in Swedish and Estonian. Seems like being in a tower was his destiny. Alva is 'fairy' in Swedish. Is this referencing a specific nordic myth?

    • How did the incidental events contribute to the story? The behavior of customs agents, or of Marse, or Alva's and Torm's educational background, for example?

    They ratchet up the tension on a cool spooky story.

    Too true.

  • 0
    edited April 16

    @Apocryphal said:
    I'm glad you're able to find something in it to like.

    I was getting angry and frustrated because I felt he was handing me jigsaw puzzle pieces from different but similar puzzles. This way I can appreciate each story on its own without feeling like in connects somehow with the others.

    Actually, it just occurred to me that Turm is 'Tower' in German, and 'turn' is tower in Icelandic and Romanian, 'torn' in Swedish and Estonian. Seems like being in a tower was his destiny. Alva is 'fairy' in Swedish. Is this referencing a specific nordic myth?

    I don't think so. I actually knew Torn means Tower and Alva means Elf. Unlike most USAians I pick up languages quickly, and I had an uncle from Sweden - don't trust them, lutefisk is poison! I don't think it refers to a specific myth. I think you are supposed to think Tower in a Fairy story.

  • 0

    @clash_bowley said:

    @Apocryphal said:
    Actually, it just occurred to me that Turm is 'Tower' in German, and 'turn' is tower in Icelandic and Romanian, 'torn' in Swedish and Estonian. Seems like being in a tower was his destiny. Alva is 'fairy' in Swedish. Is this referencing a specific nordic myth?

    I don't think so. I actually knew Torn means Tower and Alva means Elf. ... I don't think it refers to a specific myth. I think you are supposed to think Tower in a Fairy story.

    I don't know much about Nordic myth (except indirectly via JRRT) so had not seen this possible connection. But the conversation between the two of you made me think of the Lady of Shalott, AKA Elaine of Astolat (a story which as some of you know I developed rather differently in my own peculiar manner).

    The Lady lived in a tower, and used a mirror (ie glass) to view the world outside. She is under a curse not to look directly outside the tower. The locals believe that she is a fairy of some kind. A man outside (usually Lancelot) attracts her attention sufficiently that she abandons her job (weaving) and looks directly at him. The curse comes upon her, the mirror is broken, and she dies.

    As Tennyson put it

    She left the web, she left the loom
    She made three paces thro' the room
    She saw the water-flower bloom,
    She saw the helmet and the plume,
    She look'd down to Camelot.
    Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror crack'd from side to side;
    The curse is come upon me,' cried
    The Lady of Shalott.

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:
    I don't know much about Nordic myth (except indirectly via JRRT) so had not seen this possible connection. But the conversation between the two of you made me think of the Lady of Shalott, AKA Elaine of Astolat (a story which as some of you know I developed rather differently in my own peculiar manner).

    The Lady lived in a tower, and used a mirror (ie glass) to view the world outside. She is under a curse not to look directly outside the tower. The locals believe that she is a fairy of some kind. A man outside (usually Lancelot) attracts her attention sufficiently that she abandons her job (weaving) and looks directly at him. The curse comes upon her, the mirror is broken, and she dies.

    Ah! That fits!! Not Nordic, but English

  • 1

    Hmm, interesting. Seevl is an anagram of Elves, too. It's tantalizing, but I'm missing the smoking gun.

  • 1
    edited April 16

    @Apocryphal said:
    Hmm, interesting. Seevl is an anagram of Elves, too.

    I missed that! D'oh!

    It's tantalizing, but I'm missing the smoking gun.

    It's Priest. There is no smoking gun. There may be a smoking jacket, or perhaps a smoking hot character which tangentially relates if you tilt your head and look at it sideways, but effects have no direct causes - just inferences. ;)

  • 0

    @Apocryphal said:
    Hmm, interesting. Seevl is an anagram of Elves, too. It's tantalizing, but I'm missing the smoking gun.

    All of which brings us back to something we speculated on many chapters ago, viz whether the sundry names are all built around some overarching principle (and if so, what that might be)

Sign In or Register to comment.