This week and the next two weeks, we bring you “The Art Collector’s Dream Diary,” a brand new Weird Luck short story by my esteemed Weird Luck co-author Andrew M. Reichart (who also did this week’s artwork).
As is probably obvious to anyone who’s read a substantial amount of the Weird Luck material we’ve published, the work of H.P. Lovecraft is one of the many unwholesome influences that has contributed to shaping Weird Luck. In “The Art Collector’s Dream Diary,” the Weird Luck universe directly intersects Lovecraft’s universe.
For those unfamiliar with Lovecraft: the Lovecraft works referenced here are the short story “Pickman’s Model” and the novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
For those relatively new to the Weird Luck universe: the institution with which Associate Archivist Finkler is associated, the Archive of Thoth, appears in Andrew’s City of the Watcher trilogy and will eventually appear in the webcomic. We recently met another Associate Archivist of the Archive of Thoth, Dr. Mariel Baratsu.
See you next Wednesday,
The Art Collector’s Dream Diary
Part 1: Preliminary Reconnaissance
Associate Archivist Finkler, logging my notes via the telepathic rig from the oneirojet. Wish me luck falling asleep with this headdress on. Via a series of various connectors from the IT guys, I’ve got the rig plugged into Prof. Gorfeth’s new thought-to-text translation system; curious to see its output. Gorf makes grand claims about how well it’ll capture my ‘personal idiom.’ We’ll see.
To retrieve the painting Subway Accident, I begin simply with a preliminary foray via mundane dreaming. The hope is for some useful reconnaissance before I proceed bodily in the oneirojet. Yes, as others have pointed out frequently, it is hard to rely much on personal dreams for indications of anything external, even with my peculiar expertise. Yet the occasional divinatory hint does show through. And in any event, what’s the risk? Putting this on the record for the naysayers (looking at you, Clark) as a declaration regarding my expectation management.
One last note on my proposed method. Having confirmed the secure location of every major painting by Pickman (including several I’ve collected for our Archive), Subway Accident alone remains inexplicably elusive. Having exhausted mundane channels, I now look to the elusive Pickman himself for clues. Once I find him, soliciting his memory may prove difficult; per the few known accounts of him in recent decades, his personality has shed sufficiently that even telepathic assistance may not suffice. By the same token, however, he has become iconic—an iconic figure being thereby all the easier to find, in either mundane dream or Dream Realm F-37, for someone with my skill at communing with archetypes. When the time comes, I should be able to navigate the oneirojet straight to him.
For this recon, though, my own lucid dreaming will suffice. My hypnagogic state has been deepening during the recording of this log. Now deep enough to drift into the twisting night streets of old Boston. Not a soul out walking, no lights in any of the many-paned windows, only a cracked moon and planets luminous overhead between the looming gables. Before long I have wound my way to the ancient door of what I know must be Pickman’s shack, his notorious secondary studio wherein he painted his gravest horrors.
Push open the door. Descend into the darkened interior. I find myself teetering down a stairway lit only by the faintest death-light emanating from the cellar walls. Barely visible in the floor: a circle a yard across. A raised circle of bricks with a round wooden cover.
Panic washes through my dreambody, lucidity notwithstanding. Monsters lurk in the well. Monsters are in fact emerging from the well.
The wooden cover rises a few inches. Through the gap shoves a grinning snout, red eyes ogling, pointed ears. Then clawed hands, angular shoulders, and the lean and rubbery body of a lithe, vile ghoul slides out from under the wooden well-cover and lets it clatter back in place.
The crouching ghoul leers up at me, casual, murderous. “No more painting for you,” it enunciates with some effort.
“I merely seek to preserve Pickman’s great works!” I protest.
“In vault?” It laughs hissingly. “In hoard?” I bristle at its accusation, but before I can reply it continues. “You are like finder of fresh mausoleum or car accident family, who tell no one; meanwhile, other ghouls hunger.”
“Let me speak to Pickman.”
“Pickman dream me into your dream to say no.” The thing stands. Towers over me. Flexes its clawed fingers.
One feature provided by lucid dreaming: having whatever you need readily at hand. Such as this monomolecular sword. I extend the blade several feet and chop the nauseating creature diagonally in half. My blade catches the lip of the well behind it and a chunk of brick falls clonk to the floor. A small semicircle of wood clatters into the dark depths.
The ghoul’s torso slides drily apart. Then without even a flicker or a flash it’s standing there once more, intact and only slightly more hostile. My next stroke brushes harmlessly across it like a hair without leaving a mark.
“No more painting for you!” it snarls. It flexes its clawed fingers, leans forward into a languid step towards me.
The monomolecular sword is suddenly a bullwhip, which I thwack backhanded through the air at the ghoul, coiling its outstretched forearm. A quick tug tears it from my grip. The ghoul lurches closer.
I turn and run. Barrel through twisting hallways. Out into wet alleys. The thing breathes hot breath on my back. I give up and wake myself with a start. My damp shirt weighs me down with sweat.
Someone has set up psychic wards around the very idea of Pickman. A telepathic trap in the form of a ghoulish nightmare. Who would do this? Possibly even Pickman himself? Pickman dream me into your dream to say No. Exactly why?