Horror: A study on Clive Barker part 27, In The Flesh.

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Welcome to part 27 of my study on Clive Barker. Today, we will be looking at his short story 'In The Flesh.'

Summary: The story tells the tale of Cleve, a prisoner, and his new cellmate, Billy. Billy is a young man who is obsessed with the history of his Grandfather, a man who had been hung at the prison a few decades earlier, and purposely got sent to prison in order to learn more about his Grandfather. While Billy attempts to learn about his Grandfather, Cleve begins to experience bizarre dreams, but pays no attention to them. Cleve eventually learns why Billy is so obsessed; Billy's Grandfather, but just like Billy, are sorcerers. Billy has no one to 'train' him, so he is attempting to contact his Grandfather's spirit.

As Billy continues his quest, Cleve comes to learn the nature of his dreams -they are not dreams, as he sleeps he is able to visit the city of the dead. This is because of the fact he is in close proximity of Billy. Cleve -while exploring the city of the dead- learns a terrible truth; Billy's Grandfather is trying to be reincarnated. For this to occur, the Grandfather needs to convince someone to commit a murder so they will take his place in the city when they die. Before Cleve can leave the dream, one of the ghosts warns him that the only people who visit the city are future occupants.

Cleve attempts to stop Billy but is unable to, and in a flash of magic, Billy disappears. When asked by the warden where Billy went, Cleve makes a wild guess which proves to be correct. The Grave of the Grandfather is dug up, and they find Billy in the coffin along with the remains of his grandfather.

Sometime later, Cleve is released from prison; however, still haunted by the dreams, Cleve becomes a heroin addict to cope with the stress. Cleve addiction becomes so bad that he takes a job as an assassin to feed his habit. Cleve remembers his conversation with the ghost, and decides he has nothing to lose. Cleve murders a man only to later be gunned down by the police as they pursue him. The story ends with Cleve going to the city of the dead, and sometime later being reincarnated back into the world.


My Summary doesn't do this story justice, but the real power of this story is its use of language and the fact that is it built on the other stories in the Books of Blood.

Here are a few examples of his language use I found captivating.

'...Starring at the dust-infested sunlight... (Clive Barker's In the flesh, page 103)

'a face resembling a plate of rotted fruit, pulpy and peeling, swelling here with a nest of flies, and there suddenly fallen away to a pestilent core. (Page 120)

'On the wind, the same voices Cleve had heard carried before, the cries of mad children, somewhere between tears and howls.' (Page 121)


The most powerful feature in this story, in my opinion, is how this story connect both 'Book of blood' and The Body Politic. This story reinforces that idea that all the books of blood share 1 universe.

"The dead have highways (Opening line from Book of Blood)... they have cities too." (Page 130).


The last thing I want to touch on is the theme of the story: How is sin brought into the world? It is a question that Cleve asks himself over and over again as this story unfolds. At the end when he, a murderer, is reincarnated and pushed out of a uterus (since he is being reborn as a baby) he claims to have found his answer.

This concludes my look at In the Flesh. If you have a thought or a question, please leave a like or comment!

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