The latest bedtime storytime jags come from Moers’s The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, a fantastic slingshot across Zamonia, equal velocity-measures zany, smart, and surprising. Tonight, Bluebear began his transition away from the Nocturnal Academy and out of life, what is it now?, six?, The Gloomberg Mountains. To leave the school, he has to make his way through an especially disorienting labyrinth. Bluebear walks on and on until walking gives out, Fitbit.
For several hours I remained lying on my back, spreadeagled with my gaze fixed on the roof of the tunnel. I had made up my mind to dematerialize, vanish without a trace, rust away like a piece of old iron, and thus become an integral part of the Gloomberg Mountains. It seems that rusty tunnel walls have an unwholesome effect on overtaxed brains. I would never had entertained such an idea under normal circumstances, but anyone who has brooded for hours will feel, in a truly physical sense, what it’s like to rust away. It’s a strange but far from unpleasant sensation. You surrender to the forces of nature, utterly serene, then slowly turn metallic. Your body becomes coated by degrees with fine, rust-red fur and starts to crumble. The rust eats into you, ever deeper. Layer after layer flakes off, and before long you’re just a little mound of red dust to be blown away by a captive puff of wind and scattered along the endless tunnels of the Gloomberg Mountains. That was as far as my dire imaginings had progressed when my shoulder was nudged by something soft and slimy but not unfamiliar. It was Qwerty Uiop.
‘What are you doing here?’ he inquired anxiously.
‘Rusting away,’ I replied. (175-176)
Rusting away, I replied. Rusting away. But his school-friend Qwerty, from the 2364th dimension, comes along, sort of glop-bumps into him, and mentions that he has found a dimensional hiatus–a portal he knows by smell will, when he plunges into it (if he can summon the courage), jump him to another dimension. But Qwerty hesitates to jump, afraid of the unknown.
I won’t spoil it. It’s enough to take a quick snapshot of this rich bedtime reading, of Bluebear’s post-Nocturnal Academy disorienteering, his will to dematerialize, to rust, and his friend, Qwerty’s, rescue-interruption, motivated by his own crisis about risking a known dimension for an unknown dimension.
Reason enough to continue reading.