In a stand-alone story spanning centuries, Morpheus grants an ordinary man named Hob Gandling a gift allowing him to cheat death. Over the many years, Morpheus revisits Hob to see how a human would deal with unlimited life—for better or worse. But both Hob and Morpheus learn surprising lessons…
Our story opens in an English tavern in the late 1300’s. The customers grouse about taxes, impending wars, and the other myriad of problems that are affecting their livelihood. in the midst of it all, two pale customers come in and order drinks. They are Oneiros and Teluete, better known to us as Dream and Death, and at the moment, Dream is grumbling about being dragged to the mortal plain. Death reckons, however, that it is good for him to spend time among the humans and see things on their terms for a change.
As they settle in, they hear a brazen young man announcing that he has no intention of dying- that people only die because they choose to. Death and Dream are, to say the least, quite amused by this man’s boast, and as a sort of game, Dream asks his sister if she would entertain this man’s notions. She agrees, and Dream approaches the man and asks, “Did I hear you say you had no intention of ever dying?” “Then let us meet here again, in this tavern, in a hundred years!” The crowd around Hob Gadling erupts into laughter, but he seriously says, “I will see you in the year of our lord 1489, then.”
We move ahead, and it is now 1489, and the look on Hob Gadling’s face is one of disbelieve and caution. Staring at Dream sitting across him at a table in the pub, he asks, “How did you know?…Who ARE you…? Have I unwittingly made a bargain with the Devil?” to which Dream replies, “No…I am merely …interested”.
They go on to talk about the exciting new things that have come up, from chimneys to handkerchiefs, and Hob is excited about venturing into a new thing called printing.
“So you still want to live?’ asks Dream. “Oh, Yes” is the reply. Then they agree to meet again in a hundred years.
It is now 1589. Through the Shipping Trade, Hob has made himself a very rich man. With a huge donation to the king, he has even been knighted. He is no longer Hob, but Sir Robert Gadlen. His business is expanding and expanding, and there’s nowhere to go but up…
A Filthy, starving beggar arrives at the door of the Pub, and becomes belligerent when denied access inside. Upon recognizing the peasant as Hob Gadling, he asks the doorman to let him in. it is now 1689, and times have not been well for the young Hob Gadling. He has lost everything he had in the last century, his family and business, and asks ”Do you know how hungry a man can get when he is starving but doesn’t die?” Dream looks seriously at Hob, believing the game is over, and asks, “Do you not seek the respite of Death?, to which Hob flashes a beaming smile and says “Are you crazy? Death is a mug’s game…I’ve got so much to live for!”
By the time Dream meets up with Hob again in 1789 , he has become a successful Slave Trader, a profession that appalls Dream. Hob excitedly explains how cotton is traded for slaves, and the slaves are traded for tobacco and sugar, and then back again. Suddenly the two are accosted at their table by a woman and her two henchmen. She is Lady Johanna Constantine, and she’s been following the lead on a legend that spoke of The Devil meeting a Wandering Jew every century at a tavern. Dream flatly states “I am no Devil” and Hob offers, “And I’m not a Jew!” , but the team knows what they have , and attempt to abduct them, saying “There’s so much you can teach me. So much I can Learn.” Dram pulls out a bag of dust and says “No. I Think Not”. Lady Johanna is suddenly sobbing in a trance. He has shown her her old ghosts, and she is entranced by them. The two are free to slip out, and as they depart, Dream leaves Hob with something to ponder: “It is a poor thing to enslave another. I would suggest you find yourself a different line of business.”
Forward to 1889. Hob comments to Dream that he’s noticed he’s not the only one who seems to live forever. Over the centuries he’s seen quite a few people that seem to have been around as long as he. Then he turns the subject to the matter of why Dream meets him at the Tavern every 100 years. Really, Why does he do it? He’s seen what happens when someone lives forever, so that can’t be it. And after 500 years, Hob hasn’t changed all that much as a person. No, he concludes, the reason Dream come every century is because he’s lonely. This offends the Dream Lord to no end, that Hob would dare say that he needed friendship from a mortal! As Dream gets up to leave, Hob calls out, “Tell you what, I’LL be here in another 100 years, and if YOU’RE here then, too, it will be because we’re friends. No other reason, right? “Right?’ be asks, unsure of himself as Dream stalks off.
It is now 1989, and we see a very modern Robert Gadling in a blue suit and tie waiting anxiously at his table, while the customers grouse about taxes and impending wars, and all the problems that affect their livelihood. The door opens, and as the figure steps in, Robert stammers, “I…I wasn’t sure you’d be coming”
To which Dream smiles and says “I have always heard it was impolite to keep one’s friends waiting!”