I got a message in the mail yesterday, a story from another world. In this story Paris is more exotic than Barsoom, than Oz, and the bewildered Eugene must somehow accept that his guest, Veronique, has been there.
Veronique is Visiting from Paris is a short story told in twelve short chapters. It is the collaborative product of photographer Kyle Cassidy and writer Elizabeth Bear. You can buy the story here. The chapters are short because each is written on a postcard, the front of the postcard showing a scene, a moment, from Eugene and Jess’s life with Veronique.
Here’s an example:
(Image found at Kyle Cassidy’s journal, here.)
I said on Twitter yesterday that this fills the Gaiman/McKean void in my life, and I should explain that here. I first found out I like Creepy Art, unsettling art that makes you wonder if you can trust your senses, through the collaborative works of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. I would study the covers to the comic book Sandman, stare at them for long moments wondering what the hell was going on in the frame. I loved Mr. Punch, loved Black Orchid. I loved, though that’s an odd word to use, McKean’s collaboration with Grant Morrison on Arkham Asylum.
In all of these cases I studied the art, trying to figure out the meaning of the story. The words were not enough. In classic Claremont X-Men stories you could read the words and largely ignore the pictures and still get the story. You would be missing details but it would be comprehensible. In the McKean stuff, or the Bill Sienkiewicz work in New Mutants or Elektra: Assassin, that was impossible. The pictures commented on the text as much as the text narrated the pictures. I would go back and forth between the two searching for meaning. And always with the sense that, if I held the image just right, I could see what was really going on just out of sight.
Veronique is like that.
Nothing overtly terrible occurs in this tale. Yet there is something lurking, looming, just out of sight in each chapter. Something Veronique assures Eugene he does not want to understand. I keep going back to each photo, each postcard, studying the image and flipping it over to read the text. Unlike Eugene, I do not want to know how Veronique is doing this, or how she got here. I’m looking for the information that will prevent her from ever visiting me. Yet some small part of me, the part which is not a rational adult sitting in a well-lit break room at work with other people, worries that my continued inspection will reveal some terrible answer I don’t want to know.
You see, Veronique is Visiting from Paris is a new version of the classic, classic warnings. Don’t make wishes. Don’t give the Other Folk your real name. Don’t bargain with angels. If you want a life of safety and security and mundanity, then when the crazy girl says you don’t want to see what she sees, stop trying.
I loved this story. Again, you can buy the story here. I highly recommend it.