“Resemblances” from Trysts: A Triskaidecollection of Queer and Weird Stories by Steve Berman, (Lethe Press, 2001).

The last four stories in the collection concern “The Fallen Area”.  Like the story preceding them, my memory ascribed these to having been written by a nebulous “someone else” because this world is so distinct from the one the author shows us in the rest of the stories in this volume and in his YA novel Vintage.

Dave lives in a crumbling world, parts of which have “fallen”. I don’t know what has happened to cause this destruction, perhaps it is outlined in other stories about this world, but I know what I need to know – society has collapsed and the protagonist is alone.

An artist, before the collapse Dave sketched a picture of a boy, an intended self-portrait that took a slight turn. The work won an award at a local art fair. Lately, the young man he drew has been entering Dave’s dreams, interacting with him in a manner that feels very real and quite intimate.

Now, an alluring figure named Caleb has appeared from thin air, during waking hours. It soon becomes clear that he is on a mission, namely to make Dave understand that the boy of his dreams – Haddon – belongs to him. Caleb has a magical power, the ability to force open what is closed.  

That’s the surface picture we’re given, but could the stories dealing with The Fallen Area be allegorical? We’re told that after his work won a blue ribbon, Dave was kept “elated for days”. A week later came The Fall. Could this surreal world represent the states of mania and depression? Could the dream figure, who shares his name with the township in which Dave resides, be so very like him because he is him? And who then, or what, is Caleb?

The author tells us “reality had fled”, and “it left a building’s façade peeling away like a rind”, which of course makes the reader think back to certain earlier stories in the collection which have similar elements. One gets the sense that there are important truths hidden just below the surface of this and all the stories in the volume, and I want to dig for them. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Caleb and The Fallen Area showed up in the next tale, offering further clues.