Hey guys, back again. I would have been at this earlier today, but the Royal Wedding was on. I know it’s weird to watch a wedding on TV, but I can’t help liking the monarchy. But anyway, now we’re back to the supernatural events of Victor’s early life after that excellent beginning to his explanation.
So, a few months after Angus’ death, Victor’s father gets a promotion at work, so takes his family on an outing to an amusement park. I’m sure we can all guess what will happen there. So the evening starts out splendidly, considering the fact that this is apparently now a very good job. I’m not too good at social history of the time (I’ve only ever been taught political history and I rather like it that way) so I can’t really say whether it’s really such a huge step up. But in any case, Victor starts queuing up for the Big Wheel, when he sees a fortune-telling booth belonging to Dr Cain. Unsurprisingly, he is mysteriously drawn from the queue to the harmless ride to the tent that its almost certainly rife with danger. He goes in to find that in the past few months, Cain has picked up an eerie pale-skinned brunette as an assistant and a black cat with yellow eyes. And my immediate reaction is to scream “CAT!!” like the Nostalgia Critic; if you haven’t seen that review (End of Days) you really should. But yeah, he ends up going right up to Cain who starts speaking. If I didn’t know that Victor lives to a ripe old age, I would be tempted to have an inner commentary resembling this: “You are going to die. Well done for winning a Darwin award by the way.”
So the next paragraph doesn’t change scene or skip forward in time or anything like that, but instead the perspective changes from 1st person as old Victor speaks to 3rd person. A bit weird, but I’ll run with it. So Cain starts to talk to Victor, rather pleasantly too which is a bit unsettling. That and he’s making the clock on his table go backwards. Even more unsettling. But anyway, Cain asks Victor if he’s decided what he wants to wish for. Because of course he’s going to be stupid enough to make a pact with Cain after what happened to Angus. They have a bit of an argument regarding that until Victor asks a question that I’m sure many readers beside myself would like an answer to: what did Cain have to do in return for becoming the way he is now? (I’m betting on the Biblical Cain now. It just feels right.) But as soon as the question leaves his mouth, Cain loses his smile and looks as though he’ll pounce. Because of course he wasn’t creepy enough as it was. But he doesn’t (thank Lord) and Victor is lead out without further ado. Apart from a final aside from Cain as he goes to leave, about extending his offer for a wish to members of Victor’s family. A little stereotypical as threats go, but it works.
The next paragraph is another of those weird, short and overall pointless scenes, where back in the present Max wants to ask a question, but is told to wait until the end of the narrative. Why?
So back to young Victor again, where he decides to just let time go by and try to forget about Cain. A wise strategy in my books, but he’s almost guaranteed to meet with Cain again, because otherwise we would have no story. Or at least a story where Max’s family members are hunted down one by one by the cat until they decide to move away. Effectively House of Leaves then, if you replace cat with house and make it much less efficient and more mind-warping. So Victor’s family move to a new house, presumably as part of his father getting a better job, where Victor meets a kindly priest named Darius, who teaches maths and physics at his school. A talent for science blossoms, as is usually the case with subjects where the teacher is very cool, and he is persuaded by Darius to go to college and become an engineer. So Victor goes to college to study engineering, but Darius dies before he can graduate. So after about a page, Darius has been killed off. Why devote so much time to him? Anyway, while he’s at college, he meets Richard Fleischmann, who will grow up to become the doctor who builds the house on the beach. I sense plot. Richard seems to be an impetuous guy, throwing tantrums whenever something doesn’t go his way. Personally, I’m not sure I’m all that thrilled at the thought of a grown up spoiled brat being a pivotal character, but maybe he’ll surprise me. So Richard and Victor become friends because they both fall in love with a girl called Eva Gray, who turns out to be the daughter of the one tyrannical teacher that a school at any level is bound to have. So throughout college, Victor, Richard and Eva are pretty much inseparable, but the two guys know that one day one or both of them will be out of the running when it comes to getting the girl. On their graduation night, they decide to go drinking to get Victor to lighten up after Darius’ death, but it turns out that Eva can’t go. This doesn’t sound like a good idea. They get steaming drunk and decide that a go on the merry-go-round of the amusement park that just mysteriously appeared out of the mist would be a really good idea. I’ll give Zafon credit for having them be drunk before they do this monumentally stupid thing. So, guess who’s there? And guess what Richard is stupid enough to do? If you said Cain and Richard decides to go in his tent, well done. If you didn’t, shame on you. They wake up on a bench the next morning and part of them wonders whether the amusement park happened at all. But just in case, Victor asks Richard what he remembers, where it turns out that Richard wished for Eva to love him. A few months later, Richard and Eva marry and don’t see Victor for another 20 years. I think I have an idea why little Jacob drowned now.
Many years later, Victor notices that Richard has followed him home from the office. Trying to be nice to his former friend, he invites Richard inside, where he’s asked about their graduation night. Mood now soured, Victor straight out asks what he gave in exchange for Eva’s love. The answer is Richard’s first born son. Smooth. Didn’t think anyone outside of fairy tales fell for that one.
So it turns out that for the entirety of their marriage, Richard has been slipping Eva a drug that will prevent her from conceiving, but her desire for a baby causes her to sink into a depression. In order to save his wife, Richard goes to Victor for help, who agrees for Eva’s sake. After throwing Richard from the house, Victor follows him, where he conveniently finds Cain’s lair again. Cain likes messing with this guy, huh? So it turns out that Cain has changed his persona from a fortune-teller to a clown. Big surprise there. But along the way, Cain and his followers have alerted the suspicions of the police with a series of disappearances and thefts that follow them wherever they go. This villain isn’t particularly subtle, is he? Despite all his disappearing tricks, he still has all the subtlety of a brick in the face. Oh well. In any case, in order to get away, Cain tricks that Dutch captain from the earlier chapter, meaning that his crew and Victor, who has been spying on the troupe for two weeks, end up on the Orpheus. So the ship sinks, for reasons that even Victor is unsure of, but considering that the entire troupe was hiding in the bilge in case of surprise inspections, they almost certainly all drowned. So what about the statue garden? Where does that come into it?
So we’re jolted back to the present, where Max interrupts that the bodies were never found. Victor implies that the bodies were either dragged out to sea, which would make sense, or that something strange happened to them, which he will presumably now explain.
So after the shipwreck, Victor wakes up but doesn’t believe that Cain is actually gone for good. He built the lighthouse in order to wait for the time when Cain reappears. A few years after the wreck, he’s tracked down by Richard who, after hearing the story, believes Cain to be long gone and decides to build a house in the area and finally start a family. But then their son Jacob died. Thus, Victor decides that Cain has just been waiting and that he needed something strong to come back. Something strong like a promise. And that’s where the chapter ends.
Again, a very strong chapter, but now I’m left with some questions. Jacob Fleischmann’s death seems all nicely explained now, but what about the statue garden or the incidents in the Carver family? I can’t think of how the Carvers would be linked to Cain, yet they’re still being haunted, for lack of a better word, by him. Hopefully that will be explained fairly soon then.