(#51) "A Tale of Two Cities"Edit
The first story eschews the traditional comic style, with linked panels containing word balloons and panels which narrate the story: instead, the narration appears as prose, with illustrations interrupting at intervals. Gaiman had asked artist Alec Stevens to model the approach after that which he had employed in The Sinners, published by DC's Piranha Press imprint in June 1989. This approach is a unique, stained-glass-like style that takes a nod to the German Expressionists of the early 20th century.
"A Tale" concerns a city dweller named Robert who finds himself one day in what he believes to be the dream of the city in which he lives, wherein an old man explains his fear that the cities will someday awaken. Robert also encounters Morpheus, and a woman who looks like Death, but who Gaiman has said is not. When asked, Stevens said that he drew his own 'Mona' character from his Hardcore graphic novel, published by Piranha Press in January 1990. It ends with the frightened Robert returning to "reality", whereupon he moves away from the city to a small village, where the storyteller meets him. Robert fears that one day, the cities will awaken. This story is influenced by the work of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, especially in its image of a character nearly driven to madness after discovering a truth that humans were never meant to know. In his introduction to Lovecraft, The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death, Gaiman writes, "There's something about Lovecraft's fiction, about his worlds, that is oddly alluring for a writer of fantasy and horror. I've written three Lovecraftian stories: one obliquely, in Sandman—a quiet, dreamlike story (it's the first story in the Worlds' End collection. You can tell it's Lovecraftian, because I use the word "cyclopean" in it)."
(#52) "Cluracan's Tale" Edit
The second story is a fantasy adventure, narrated by the flamboyant representative of Faerie introduced in Season of Mists, Cluracan, in which he is sent to the city Aurelian (resembling imperial Rome) to represent the interests of Faerie in the political struggle there, and causes uproar with a prophecy to the ruler of Aurelian. He is imprisoned immediately, but freed by Morpheus, who is alerted to his plight by Cluracan's sister, Nuala, in Morpheus' service. Using his faerie powers to disguise himself, Cluracan provokes the inhabitants of Aurelian to rebellion against their ruler, who is thereupon killed by his undead predecessor. John Watkiss draws this story.
(#53) "Hob's Leviathan" Edit
The third story, set in the European Age of Exploration, is told by a girl who poses as a boy, Jim, to go to sea, and therefore may be inspired by the traditional folk song "The Handsome Cabin Boy". It concerns the difficulties presented by extraordinary truths, and reintroduces Hob Gadling, who appears in The Doll's House. Jim makes a voyage from Singapore to Liverpool, stopping in India, where Hob is presented as a guest on the ship, and persuades the captain to transport an Indian stowaway. The Indian tells a tale in which a king gives his wife a fruit conferring immortality; whereupon she gives it to her secret paramour, who gives it to a courtesan, who returns it to the king; whereupon the king abdicates, eats the fruit himself, and goes wandering. It is later implied that the stowaway is the king in disguise; this is confirmed in The Wake. Before the end of their journey, a massive leviathan appears in a terrible display, then disappears. Jim is eager to converse on the subject; but all the sailors refuse, and Hob himself dissuades Jim. The story ends with Hob revealing Jim's true identity and Jim learning that Hob owns the ship on which they travel. The story is penciled by Michael Zulli and inked by Dick Giordano.
(#54) "The Golden Boy" Edit
The fourth story is told to Brant alone by an Asian-American fellow-traveler,  and depicts an alternate history in which U.S. President Richard Nixon is succeeded by Prez Rickard, who as President averts a war in the Middle East, solves the energy crisis, and enforces social justice. Throughout the story he is haunted by 'Boss Smiley', an immortal political boss presiding over Prez's world. In Prez's second term, a deranged woman wounds Prez and kills his new fiancée to gain the celebrity Ted Grant's attention. Prez finishes his term and retires to his hometown, and eventually fades from public knowledge. After his death, Boss Smiley offers him an unsatisfying afterlife, and Dream instead permits Prez to explore other alternate histories of America. Prez is herein made a Messiah figure for the American dream: young, idealistic, brilliant, and transitory. His likenesses to Jesus Christ are demonstrated through parallels with stories from the Gospels, including events similar to Jesus's discussions with the temple elders or the temptation of Christ; and stories from other religious traditions such as Taoism are included. There are also subtle homages to Watchmen: the deranged woman who kills his fiancée wears a smiley button; and the panel which shows a zombie version of herself has a blood spot on the smiley button identical to the one in Watchmen. Prez's backstory as a watchmaker also mirrors that of Dr. Manhattan.
(#55) "Cerements" Edit
The fifth story is told by a 'prentice' (Petrefax) from the necropolis Litharge, a city devoted to the practice of various methods of burial, derived from multiple cultures. Petrefax tells of his apprenticeship, and relates the stories told by other masters and apprentices at an exposure he attends. The first story is that of Billy Scutt, a master hangman who tricks his own jailers into permitting him a natural death, told by Mig. Scroyle's tale, the second, features Destruction, who tells of an earlier necropolis, destroyed by Destiny for failing to honor the funerary traditions necessary to the first Despair's interment; this story, and the one that follows it, prove important to events in the tenth collection, The Wake. Master Hermas' tale comes third, telling of Mistress Veltiss who in relates four of her town tales: one of a mortician and a giant, another of a gravedigger, the third of a layover in a tavern at worlds' end, and her own tale, which also obliquely involves the Endless.
|51||A Tale of Two Cities||Neil Gaiman||Alec Stevens / Bryan Talbot||Alec Stevens / Mark Buckingham||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|52||Cluracan's Tale||Neil Gaiman||John Watkiss / Bryan Talbot||John Watkiss / Mark Buckingham||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|53||Hob's Leviathan||Neil Gaiman||Michael Zulli / Bryan Talbot||David Giordano / Mark Buckingham||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|54||The Golden Boy||Neil Gaiman||Michael Allred / Bryan Talbot||Michael Allred / Mark Buckingham||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|55||Cerements||Neil Gaiman||Shea Anton Pensa / Bryan Talbot||Vince Locke / Mark Buckingham||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|56||Worlds' End||Neil Gaiman||Gary Amaro / Bryan Talbot||Dick Giordano / Steve Leialoha / Tony Harris / Mark Buckingham / Bryan Talbot||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|