"Sleep of the Just": June 6th, 1916
- I have food and raiment. I need the tools stolen from me by my former captor. He will give them to me. And he will give me the other thing I crave... revenge.
- — Dream
Synopsis for "Sleep of the Just"
June 6th, 1916
Doctor John Hathaway of Scotland's Royal Museum visits the Sussex manor Fawny Rig, home of the occult magus Roderick Burgess. He explains to Burgess that his son Edmund had been killed in the war. He offers him a mystical tome called the Magdalene Grimoire and begs Burgess to use his knowledge of the occult to resurrect his son. Burgess agrees and takes possession of the book.
At the stroke of midnight, Burgess and his fellow cultists in the Order of Ancient Mysteries begin their summoning ritual. Burgess seeks to capture the very essence of death, through which, no one need ever die again. Roderick's young son Alexander is present during the ritual. After a lengthy incantation, Burgess opens the veil between worlds and a strange being clad in a cape and an elaborate helmet spills into the middle of the circle. Roderick immediately knows that this is not Death. This is actually Morpheus - the Lord of Dreams. Burgess keeps his ethereal presence consigned to the mystic ward on the floor, while his cultists erect a crystal dome over the ward to contain the Dream King's corporeal form. Around the world, different people suffer after effects of the Sandman's imprisonment. People like Ellie Marston, Stefan Wasserman, Daniel Bustamonte and Unity Kincaid fall into a deep malaise; an unnatural comatose state from which they cannot awaken.
Doctor John Hathaway, torn over Burgess' failure to reproduce his dead son, can no longer live with himself. Roderick has bled him dry through blackmail, so Hathaway decides to take his own life. He leaves behind a suicide note implicating Burgess in the theft of the Grimoire. Burgess is investigated, but cleared of all charges, having used occult magic to burn the suicide note before it was found.
Young Alexander consults with the Paginarum Fulvarum and learns his prisoner's true identity. Roderick is impressed with the boy. He always knew that the being inside the glass dome was one of the Endless, but up until now he did not know which one. He tries to force Morpheus to serve up his sibling Death, but Morpheus does not respond. He merely sits silently in his prison, patiently waiting.
November - December 1930
Ruthven Sykes, second-in-command to Burgess' Order of Ancient Mysteries decides to strike out on his own. He steals a large sum of money from Roderick as well as the artifacts found upon Dream's person. Roderick's former mistress Ethel Cripps runs away with him. Sykes knows that Roderick will hunt him down, so he barters Dream's helm with a demon named Choronzon for protection. The demon gives Ruthven an amulet. So long as he always wear it, he will be safe from Roderick's retribution.
Ethel Cripps leaves Ruthven Sykes and takes the amulet as well as the Dreamstone. Roderick Burgess uses his knowledge of the occult to take his revenge by making Sykes' head explode.
Roderick Burgess is old and dying. He goes to the cellar of his home and tries to force Morpheus to do his bidding. Once again, Morpheus refuses. He watches as the old man shouts at him before finally pitching over dead.
Alexander Burgess, now an adult, is the new leader of the Order of Ancient Mysteries. He has taken possession of his father's estate and lives there with his partner Paul McGuire. Alex goes to the cellar and makes Morpheus the same offer that his father once made him. He will free him in exchange for power and a promise that he will not retaliate. Morpheus tells him "No".
Alex Burgess has turned from a serious study of the dark arts and uses his resources to host a series of tantric sex rituals. Paul and he promote these endeavors not only for the sex, but also for the revenue they generate.
Burgess falls into a state of great despondency. He hands control of the Order completely over to Paul McGuire. He becomes obsessed with the Liber Fulvarum Paginarum and continuously from a single page in the book - a page that includes a representation of the Sandman.
Alexander Burgess tries to talk to Morpheus, but the Dream King won't respond to him.
Burgess tells his prisoner that he hasn't had a decent night's sleep in over sixty years. He blames Morpheus for his current state.
Burgess, old and infirm, makes idle threats to Morpheus. These too go unheeded.
Alexander Burgess, now confined to a wheelchair, goes to the cellar to see Morpheus one final time. Out of spite, he tells Morpheus that he is glad that his father captured him, then instructs Paul to bring him back upstairs. As the wheelchair turns, one of the tires smudges the binding circle that surrounds Morpheus. The Dream King collapses, seemingly dead. Paul McGuire unlocks the glass dome to check on him. As soon as he does so, Morpheus blows sand in his face and escapes. Across the world, those who were affected the worst by the Dream Lord's imprisonment begin to awaken. One of these victims of the "sleeping sickness", Unity Kincaid, recalls once having a baby girl.
That evening, Alexander Burgess goes to sleep. In his dreams, he is confronted by the Sandman. Unable to gain revenge against the man who first imprisoned him, he instead decides to mete out vengeance against the son. He curses Burgess with Eternal Waking - an endless nightmare wherein he experiences terrific horrors which conclude when he wakes up screaming - only to discover that he is actually still asleep, and the self-perpetuating cycle repeats itself over and over. Burgess lapses into a coma.
Appearing in "Sleep of the Just"
- Dream (First appearance)
- Choronzon (Behind the scenes)
- Desire (Behind the scenes)
- Order of Ancient Mysteries
- Arthur Marston (Single appearance) (Cameo)
- Compton (First appearance)
- Daniel Bustamonte
- Death (Behind the scenes)
- Edmond Hathaway (Single appearance) (Behind the scenes)
- Elvis Presley (In dream sequence only)
- Ellie Marston
- Jimmy Durante (In dream sequence only)
- John Wayne (In dream sequence only)
- Marilyn Monroe (In dream sequence only)
- Mort Notkin (Single appearance)
- Nurse Edmonds (Single appearance)
- Paul McGuire (First appearance)
- Stefan Wasserman
- This issue is reprinted in Essential Vertigo: Sandman #1, Millennium Edition: Sandman (Volume 2) #1, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and The Absolute Sandman, Volume One.
- First appearance of all characters.
- Burgess identifies Dream as belonging to a group called the Endless. He makes reference to other members of the Endless, notably Death, Desire and Destiny. Destiny made regular appearances as the host of Secrets of Haunted House and Weird Mystery Tales. Death and Desire have yet to be introduced in the series. Death will make her first appearance in Sandman #8 and Desire will be introduced in Sandman #10.
- One passage states that Unity Kincaid dreams of a "tall dark man". On the surface it appears as if Gaiman is describing Morpheus, but it is also possible that he may be describing Desire. Desire's connection to Unity Kincaid is revealed in "The Kindly Ones" story-arc later on in the series.
- "Sleep of the Just" is also the name of a song produced by Elvis Costello.
- Wesley Dodds' connection to Morpheus is explored in greater detail in Sandman: Midnight Theatre #1.
- Roderick Burgess and the Order of Ancient Mysteries is loosely based on real world occultist Aleister Crowley and his Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley is referenced as a contemporary to Burgess in this issue. On page 23, a man is seen wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Daffy Duck and a caption which reads, "Do what thou wilt, buster!" This is a variation on a phrase commonly attributed to Aleister Crowley which is, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law".
- Most of the names that Burgess invokes during his incantation are the names of actual pagan gods and goddesses.
- Roderick Burgess' gravestone is etched with the words, "Not dead, only sleeping".