* * * WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE * * *
Well, we don't see that kind of writing any more these days.
We see a "wraith-form" standing over a man's bed, sucking out his dreams. The demon is upset, since the guy's dreams aren't too great. Cut to Madame Xanadu's shop in NYC; she's restless, and then she sees why: the demon walks into her shop. She clearly dislikes the dude, but he gives her something which shakes her, and she accepts it. Right after he leaves, Stephen Prince walks in. He's a superintendent of a small apartment building, and tells her his story.
He smelled smoke one day, and met Laurel; it seems her casserole burned when she fell asleep. He invites her out for a pizza, and they start dating. She calls him "My Prince", so he calls her "My Lady". Then we see some scenes right out of "Young Romance" -- walking in the park, kissing in the moonlight, writing poetry, sitting by the fire with a guitar and a jug of wine. But then Mr. Hazel rents a vacant apartment in the building, and starts putting the moves on Laurel. He's an archaeologist, big on history and dead civilizations, and has lots of incredible stories. Stephen remarks how it's like Hazel is casting a spell on Laurel. (Hazel, by the way, likes to wear a Dracula cape, and he's the bad guy from the beginning of the story.) Stephen sees him later outside Laurel's apartment one night, and then later coming out of Mr. Jaffe's apartment. Stephen nearly screams at seeing his face: "it was like seeing the face of every evil thought I ever had!" (Now that's pretty bad). So of course he decides to follow Hazel, and that leads him to Xanadu's shop.
Xanadu knows just what the problem is; it seems Hazel's really an incubus, who can "steal the dreams of sleeping people, weaving them into physical objects, often in the form of tapestries from which the demon gains control of the individual's mind, and sustains his own existence." Now we see what Hazel gave Xanadu earlier: a piece of a tapestry, stolen from Mr. Jaffe's dreams. So they go back to Mr.Jaffe's apartment (in an editing lapse, Mr. Jaffe isn't the old man that Stephen said he was earlier), but Jaffe freaks out and runs off (in his jammies). So Stephen chases him and knocks him out on a rooftop, 'cuz Xanadu wants him there.
Back in Hazel's apartment, Hazel starts entrancing Laurel... just as Xanadu and Stephen realize that Hazel would look for someone with strong dreams. They show up too late; Hazel has taken her dreams and wove them into a tapestry (don't ask, just live with it). He taunts Stephen: he gives him the tapestry, but don't forget that destroying the tapestry to stop an incubus' power means destroying the mind of the dreamer. But Xanadu comes up with the key: the victim of an incubus can escape his power only by defeating the demon in the dream-world. Xanadu helps Stephen enter the world of the tapestry, giving him a shield from somewhere.
In the dream, he's outfitted as a knight, since it's Laurel's dream, and he's riding a unicorn. He soon finds Laurel, who's been turned into a tree, and then Hazel shows up. Seems he's really Azazel, Lucifer's own standard-bearer. He blasts Stephen, but he's got a Reality Shield. Azazel sends a thousand terrifying realities at him, but Stephen grips the Reality Shield and focuses on it (can't you hear the dramatic music about now?). He feels his mind slipping, but Laurel gets control of her dream-world, if only temporarily. Stephen's idea: let him take over the world, but make a weapon for him, and concentrate on it and don't let Azazel get control over it no matter what.
So she makes a rainbow bridge to a sword in a stone, and then Azazel shows up for the big finale. But Stephen doesn't have the sword yet; Laurel inspires him by saying that she made it out of the one thing that's real in the dream world, her love for him (everybody: awwwwww). So he chucks the shield at Azazel, enabling him to get to the sword, and wouldn't ya know it, it defeats the demon. So he grabs the shield as the dreamworld begins to disappear...
Ooooh, scary story, huh?
The letters page, "Tarot Readings", written by Michael C. Carmichael, has instead a number of reported incidents of dreams foretelling the future.
Both the cover and story were eventually reprinted in issue #190 of "Unexpected" (March/April 1979). In the reprint, most of the Doorway to Nightmare logo is missing, replaced with a caption, and the Kaluta signature is blacked out in the lower right corner. On the inside, the title of the story is missing, the Doorway to Nightmare logo is missing, and there's an art extension at bottom of page.
After the cancellation of her book, Madame Xanadu moved over to "Unexpected" for a little while. She had a self-titled one-shot in 1981, one of the first direct-sales only comics. Later, she became a supporting character in the 1987-1989 Moench "Spectre" series.
Thanks to Bill Wormstedt for reprint info.
Copies of this or any other CCC story are available for a mere $5.00 each (that covers copies and P&H). Give me a holler!
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