Written by: Matt Molgaard
Mystery, greed, deception, murder: these are the cogs that spin faultlessly throughout Neil Gaiman’s mesmerizing short: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. The story, which focuses on a dwarf in search for gold and his unlikely guide to the Black Mountains, Calum MacInnes, works on a disturbing psychological level.
The Black Mountains host what could only be called a curse, but the question is: does the curse dwell within the cave, or the imaginations and hearts of the men who seek it out? Treasures are promised of the cave, but are treasures truly to be gained, and if so, at what cost? These questions are established early, and built upon, fleshed out with each passing page.
More of an examination of the mind than an outright horror story, Gaiman’s tale is the kind that reaches from print, squeezes the psyche and leaves the reader completely transfixed. As the story unravels, the two focal traveling companions share inner secrecies while treading lightly: neither man trusts the other, in the slightest. Both also keep skeletons locked tight in the closet, apprehensive to crack the door, even slightly.
Tension mounts as these two men trek across great stretches of land. The treasure is the goal, but dangerous life lessons make for the actual payoff. A controlled betrayal brews between the two, en route to the cave, and the insanity boils over once their destination has been reached and the cave has been entered. Within said cave, revelations are laid out, and the announcements displayed prove rather shocking.
Will an ounce of booty be carried from the mouth of the cave?
Perhaps I should propose a different question: What waits once exiting the cave?
Neil’s beautifully poetic prose really comes to life as the story reaches conclusion. A fine climax awaits readers and to label it anything other than jarring would be to deliver injustice. Although the story’s character development emerges as a shining point of this one, the final showdown is a grand treat to read. A somewhat despicable spin leaves a mark on the conscious of readers, and I personally couldn’t have asked for a better way to seal up what is a extraordinary story.
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will find a sense of familiarity in, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. Gaiman blends a vintage storytelling style with a contemporary charm that few authors manage. While this tale is as much fantasy as horror, it’s an absolute must read: ‘nuff said!