Chapter Two – The First Sleeper
Chapter two begins with Josh waking up. He hears someone telling him to wake – they use his full name, Joshua, of course – and finally he opens his eyes. At first he thinks one of his parents is calling him, but realizes that there’s nothing but white above him, and he cannot hear any of the typical morning sounds, just the hissing of air. Then he remembers what happened, starts shouting for his parents, and, of course, tries to sit up, bashing his head on the coffin lid. Fortunately, the lid opens.
The room is mostly dark with one small light, but there isn’t enough light to see anything. Josh starts to panic, and feels around until he finds the door – which, oddly enough, does not have a knob, or handle, or anything to manipulate it. He continues panicking, and starts beating on the door and screaming until finally he collapses to the floor. Then he starts thinking about a story he’d read about a man who was buried alive, and is just about to start panicking again when he hears someone breathing. Naturally, this terrifies him, so he assumes the fetal position, staring into the darkness, trying to see who it is.
And finally, at long last, a voice tells him to not be afraid. And I don’t know about Josh, but that would totally calm me down.
Josh asks who he is, and the voice says that he hasn’t used a name in so long he’s almost forgotten, but that Josh can call him Crusoe, since he’s been marooned long enough to use that name. He then explains that he didn’t turn the light on because Josh might have been afraid at the sight of him. He turns the light on, and Josh gets his first look at him.
His face was a little frightening – wrinkled like a dried prune, with several white scar patches across his cheeks. He had a pointed nose and big front teeth that stuck out. But the brown eyes peering from the scarred and wrinkled face were warm and friendly. (page 23)
Or, in other words: Crusoe looks more or less like any other old man, excepting the fact that he hops around like a kangaroo. And let’s examine his logic: he was afraid Josh would be afraid of his appearance, so he let Josh scream for help and beat his fists against a steel door for around ten minutes in a total panic before finally announcing his presence. Which really just cements it: Crusoe’s an idiot.
Crusoe asks if Josh is hungry, which he is, but he starts asking Crusoe questions, which the kangaroo ignores. The door, as it turns out, is activated by a special word – even though it wasn’t before, when Josh arrived with his parents. They go down to a kitchen and Crusoe gives him strange food, which, of course, tastes good. Finally, when he’s full, he asks Crusoe about his parents. Crusoe says that they’re dead. And we get this gem.
A wave of pain and fear engulfed Josh. Tears welled into his eyes, but he held them back as he saw Crusoe watching him… (page 24)
Josh is 14 years old, he’s just been told that his parents are dead, but he’s trying to hold back tears because someone is watching him. Right. And then, moments later, he recovers and asks Crusoe how it happened. Crusoe whips out a handy map, which looks unfamiliar. Crusoe explains that this is the world, which is now called ‘Nuworld’. And wow, that is creative.
Crusoe helpfully expositions that there was a war – yes, we know – and that the nukes melted the ice caps and flooded entire nations. Florida and California both disappeared, and earthquakes pushed up new mountains…and everything is different. Josh can’t understand how that is the case, because it’s only been a little while. And time for the big reveal…Crusoe tells him that he’s been asleep for fifty years.
The series was written in the early nineties and the beginning is obviously set around that time. Now, I could be wrong about this, but I don’t believe that the United States has mastered suspended animation chambers. Particularly suspended animation chambers that allow someone to sleep for fifty years without needing food, water, and essential vitamins. And even more particularly would allow said person to wake up without their muscles or eyes having atrophied. Admittedly, suspended animation champers are a fairly common plot device in science fiction novels, but it wouldn’t have been particularly hard for Morris to insert a line or two about this.
Instead, Josh reacts with shock to this. And he instantly decides that everyone he knows must be dead. Which is idiotic: if the people he knew survived the nuclear war and ensuing fallout, then after fifty years they’d probably be in their mid-sixties, which is perfectly reasonable. Josh really should have reacted this way after hearing about the nuclear war, which was quite likely to have killed everyone he knew.
Crusoe quickly pours Josh a drink, and after downing it he feels fine. And, believe it or not, this is the last time he’s going to feel sorry about everyone who died, and that includes his dead parents.
Moments later the door opens and two dwarfs walk in. They’re three feet tall, extremely fat, and very hairy with long beards. And they look exactly alike.
Crusoe introduces them as Mat and Tam, and they know Crusoe by name. Which is odd, considering that in the preceding scene Crusoe told Josh that he hadn’t used a name in so long that he’d almost forgotten, and then apparently made up Crusoe on the spot. Obviously, however, he’s been using it for some time. So either Crusoe’s a liar or Morris is an idiot, and my money is on both.
Crusoe and the twins explain that they’re Gemini twins. Apparently, after the war, a lot of twins were born that looked exactly alike but were completely different in personality. And since this is how they will be defined, I’ll just call them Grumpy and Happy. Unfortunately, Gemini twins can’t be separated from each other – if they get too far apart, they just die.
Grumpy and Happy fight a bit, while Crusoe attempts to act as a moderator. It’s interesting to note that it is never, at any point, revealed how Crusoe and these dwarfs know each other or why they’re living in the silo. Which breaks Twain’s Rule #4: characters shall have a sufficient excuse for being there.
Josh begins to feel out of place, and says that he wishes he could see some normal people. Grumpy laughs and tells him that he’sthe freak and they’re normal. Most of the humans, apparently, were killed during the war, and everyone afterward was different. Which doesn’t really explain how the vast majority of the peoples we shall encounter during this 10-book monstrosity are quite obviously human…
Suddenly, while the twins are fighting again, serenity falls upon Josh, and he can’t hear anything except for a sudden faint voice singing a song. Josh immediately knows that the song is true, and starts singing along.
Some sleep beneath the heavy earth, some higher than the sky
All waiting for a timely birth, the Seven Sleepers lie.
The house of Goel will be filled, the earth itself will quake!
The beast will be forever stilled, when Seven Sleepers wake! (page 29)
Immediately Grumpy becomes infuriated. He calls Josh a fanatic and asks if he really believes that ‘crazy nonsense’. Naturally, Happy immediately points out that there might be something to the ‘old stories’. Crusoe jumps in and says that Josh is basically a baby and doesn’t know anything about the Promise, which is that someday all the evil will end and things will be Good. Because, y’know, there’s a Prophecy. And there’s all this old stories and songs telling about the day when the Seven Sleepers return, everything will be peachy.
Incredibly, Josh is the only person in this entire scene with even a modicum of intelligence, but his statement really only serves to highlight the dozens of problems here.
…Josh asked suddenly “[Grumpy], what about me?”
“Well,” [Grumpy] asked suspiciously, “what about you?”
“He means,” Crusoe said wheezily, “how can you explain his being here? We’ve all known that he’s been asleep – all your lives you’ve known that. Now he’s awake – just as I told you he would be one day.” (page 30)
Now, this seems to indicate that Josh has just randomly woken up and they had no idea when or if it was going to happen – even though in Chapter One Josh’s father told him that he wouldn’t wake up until someone flipped a little switch that read ‘AWAKE’. So obviously Crusoe and the dwarfs could have woken him up whenever they liked, but chose not to, for whatever reason. Furthermore, since the dwarfs know at least one Sleeper exists, why doesn’t Grumpy believe that the Sleepers even exist?
And, if Josh just randomly woke up — why did Crusoe just happen to be sitting in the same room with all the lights off? Has he been doing this for the last fifty years, and if he has, why isn’t he completely insane? Not to mention that when the dwarfs appeared they did not show the slightest surprise at Josh’s sudden appearance, when you’d think they would at least look at Crusoe and say “He woke up?” with a funny look.
Not to mention that this entire Ancient Prophecy doesn’t make sense, because it’s been fifty years. Assume a few years for things to settle down, around twenty years for the next generation of Nupeople to grow up, and that leaves about twenty-five years for rumors about the Seven Sleepers to become ‘ancient drivel’ and ‘old stories’ – which is ridiculous. That’s not ancient. That’s not even close.
Grumpy, of course, starts demanding to know how Josh is going to find the other six Sleepers, since he has no idea where they are. He tells Josh to show him the places on a map, and Crusoe responds with the stupidest quote of the chapter.
“True places are never shown on a map.” (page 30)
Right. I don’t have anything to add to that.
Josh says that he didn’t dream the song, he doesn’t know what it means, but somewhere, he thinks, there’s six other Sleepers. And he’s either going to find them or die trying. It’s very noble and heroic. Happy turns a cartwheel at the thought, Grumpy stomps on his hat, Crusoe promises to help him, and finally, at long last…the chapter ends.