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Authors: Richard A. Lupoff

Dreams

BOOK: Dreams
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Dreams

 

dreams
Richard A. Lupoff
Hippocampus Press
————————
New York
First Hippocampus Press edition, 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-61498-043-8
Published by Hippocampus Press
P.O. Box 641, New York, NY 10156
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher. The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Cover production by Barbara Briggs Silbert. Hippocampus Press logo designed by Anastasia Damianakos.
All stories and afterword copyright © by Richard A. Lupoff.
Introduction copyright © by Cody Goodfellow.
Cover art copyright © by Steven Gilberts.
Published in hardcover by Mythos Books LLC.
Sources
"The Adventure of the Voorish Sign."
Shadows Over Baker Street
, ed. John Pelan & Michael Reaves. Ballantine Books, 2003.
"At the Esquire."
Dude
magazine, ed. Bruce Arthur. Dugent Publishing Corporation, November 1968.
"Nothing Personal."
Cthulhu Reigns
, ed. Darrell Schweitzer. DAW Books, 2010.
"Tee Shirts," "Sergeant Ghost," "The Law" and "HEAVEN.GOD" original to
Dreams
(hardcover edition). Mythos Books, 2011.
"Dingbats."
Horrors Beyond
, ed. William Jones. Elder Signs Press, 2005.
"The River of Fog."
Ghor Kin-Slayer: The Saga of Genseric's Fifth-Born Son,
ed. Jonathan Bacon. Necronomicon Press, 2007.
"Cairo, Goodbye."
Flurb,
ed. Rudy Rucker, no. 9, Spring–Summer 2010.
"Report of the Admissions Committee."
Tales Out of Miskatonic University
, ed. William Jones. Elder Signs Press, 2010.
"Fourth Avenue Interlude."
Poe's Lighthouse
, ed. Christopher Conlon. Cemetery Dance Publications, 2006.
"DREEMZ.BIZ."
Hardboiled Cthulhu
, ed. James Ambuehl. Dimension Books, 2006.
"WYSHES.COM."
Horrors Beyond II
, ed. William Jones. Elder Signs Press, 2007.
"The Green Fairy." Original to the Hippocampus Press edition.
Table of Contents
Introduction:
Into the Weird Blue Yonder
What need is there for science fiction, when the world faces a host of apocalyptic terrors of its own making, and the future is mortgaged to the hilt? What percentage in cosmic horror, when neighbors believe they see aliens living across the street, worshipping unfathomable gods to hasten the apocalypse? And where is the room for fantasy, in a culture devised to blind us to all of these festering, faceless foes with mind-numbing media spin?
In such times, we need to remember our dreams. Not the showers of shiny things we've been nagged to strain and strive for, but the impossible things that only come true in deep sleep, and fade all too quickly out of waking memory.
Amid the endless man-eating mall of the real world and its increasingly prickly, unhealthy ideas about art, Dick Lupoff's body of work is a welcome anachronism. Old-fashioned, certainly—but in the sense that he hungers for wonder, and not dread. In his generosity for humankind and its myriad weird customs, and the wholesome notions of a bygone age (until you get to "Dingbats").
Old-fashioned, indeed, like a fox. Where the cutting edge has stumbled upon monster mash-up lit and cross-genre marketing strategies, Lupoff was always there. Like Beaumont, Bradbury or Leiber, Lupoff nimbly shifts from fantasy to horror to mystery to science fiction in his career, and often in a single story. But unlike most of his eminent contemporaries—or most any of us—Dick absorbs and evolves instead of aging, without succumbing to hardening of the artistries. His hard-won wisdom and wide-eyed curiosity give him the vigor to leap chasms of genre and style: to kick out a fantasy jam like "
Tee Shirts
," set in a long-lost free-loving San Francisco; then undertake a cosmic shocker like "
Nothing Personal
," or a loopy, earthbound star-yarn like "
The Law
"; and top it with a rich frosting of nostalgic Americana like "
Cairo, Goodbye
," or a love letter to the most beloved of all endangered species, the independent bookstore.
What follows are a psychic smorgasbord of Richard Lupoff's wildest, weirdest yarns, but also his most earthy and elemental, human ones. In a jaded genre ghetto scene that has run out of taboos to smash, Lupoff has unwittingly—one assumes—found a new one: simply to ask, what if something
wonderful
happened? And in a world that often dreams most fervently of its own extinction, the stories in
Dreams
often seem to poignantly ask,
what is worth saving?
CODY GOODFELLOW
San Pornando, California
The Adventure of the Voorish Sign
It was by far the most severe winter London had known in human memory, perhaps since the Romans had founded their settlement of Londinium nearly two millennia ago. Storms had swept down from the North Sea, cutting off the Continent and blanketing the great metropolis with thick layers of snow that were quickly blackened by the choking fumes of ten thousand charcoal braziers, turning to a treacherous coating of ice when doused with only slightly warmer peltings of sleet.
Even so, Holmes and I were snug in our quarters at 221b Baker Street. The fire had been laid, we had consumed a splendid dinner of meat pasties and red cabbage served by the ever-reliable Mrs. Hudson, and I found myself dreaming over an aged brandy and a pipe while Holmes devoted himself to his newest passion.
He had raided our slim exchequer for sufficient funds to purchase one of Mr. Emile Berliner's new gramophones, imported by Harrods of Brompton Road. He had placed one of Mr. Berliner's new disk recordings on the machine, advertised as a marked im¬provement over the traditional wax cylinders. But the sounds that emerged from the horn were neither pleasant nor tuneful to my ears. Instead they were of a weird and disquieting nature, seem¬ingly discordant yet suggestive of strange harmonies which it would be better not to understand.
As I was about to ask Holmes to shut off the contraption, the melody came to an end and Holmes removed the needle from its groove.
Holmes pressed an upraised finger against his thin lips and sharply uttered my name. "Watson!" he repeated as I lowered my pipe. The brandy snifter had very nearly slipped from my grasp, but I was able to catch it in time to prevent a disastrous spill.
"What is it, Holmes?" I inquired.
"Listen!"
He held one hand aloft, an expression of intense concentration upon his saturnine features. He nodded toward the shuttered win¬dows which gave out upon Baker Street.
"I hear nothing except the whistle of the wind against the eaves," I told him.
"Listen more closely."
I tilted my head, straining to hear whatever it was that had caught Holmes's attention. There was a creak from below, followed by the sound of a door opening and closing, and a rapping of knuckles against solid wood, the latter sound muffled as by thin cloth.
I looked at Holmes, who pressed a long finger against his lips, indicating that silence was required. He nodded toward our door, and in a few moments I heard the tread of Mrs. Hudson ascending to our lodging. Her sturdy pace was accompanied by another, light and tentative in nature.
Holmes drew back our front door to reveal our landlady, her hand raised to knock. "Mr. Holmes!" she gasped.
"Mrs. Hudson, I see that you have brought with you Lady Fairclough of Pontefract. Will you be so kind as to permit Lady Fairclough to enter, and would you be so good as to brew a hot cup of tea for my lady. She must be suffering from her trip through this wintry night."
Mrs. Hudson turned away and made her way down the staircase while the slim young woman who had accompanied her entered our sitting room with a series of long, graceful strides. Behind her, Mrs. Hudson had carefully placed a carpetbag valise upon the floor.
"Lady Fairclough." Holmes addressed the newcomer. "May I introduce my associate, Dr. Watson. Of course you know who I am, which is why you have come to seek my assistance. But first, please warm yourself by the fire. Dr. Watson will fetch a bottle of brandy with which we will fortify the hot tea that Mrs. Hudson is preparing."
The newcomer had not said a word, but her face gave proof of her astonishment that Holmes had known her identity and home without being told. She wore a stylish hat trimmed in dark fur and a carefully tailored coat with matching decorations at collar and cuffs. Her feet were covered in boots that disappeared beneath the lower hem of her coat.
I helped her off with her outer garment. By the time I had placed it in our closet, Lady Fairclough was comfortably settled in our best chair, holding slim hands toward the cheerily dancing flames. She had removed her gloves and laid them with seemingly careless precision across the wooden arm of her chair.
"Mr. Holmes," she said in a voice that spoke equally of cultured sensitivity and barely repressed terror, "I apologize for disturbing you and Dr. Watson at this late hour, but—"
"There is no need for apologies, Lady Fairclough. On the contrary, you are to be commended for having the courage to cross the Atlantic in the midst of winter, and the captain of the steamship
Murania
is to be congratulated for having negotiated the crossing successfully. It is unfortunate that our customs agents delayed your disembarkation as they did, but now that you are here, perhaps you will enlighten Dr. Watson and myself as to the problem which has beset your brother, Mr. Philip Llewellyn."
If Lady Fairclough had been startled by Holmes's recognizing her without introduction, she was clearly amazed beyond my meager powers of description by this statement. She raised a hand to her cheek, which showed a smoothness of complexion and grace of curve in the flattering glow of the dancing flames. "Mr. Holmes," she exclaimed, "how did you know all that?"
"It was nothing, Lady Fairclough, one need merely keep one's senses on the alert and one's mind active." A glance that Holmes darted in my direction was not welcome, but I felt constrained from protesting in the presence of a guest and potential client.
"So you say, Mr. Holmes, but I have read of your exploits and in many cases they seem little short of supernatural," Lady Fairclough replied.
"Not in the least. Let us consider the present case. Your valise bears the paper label of the Blue Star Line. The
Murania
and the
Lemuria
are the premiere ocean liners of the Blue Star Line, alternating upon the easterly and westerly transatlantic sea lanes. Even a fleeting glance at the daily shipping news indicates that the
Murania
was due in Liverpool early this morning. If the ship made port at even so late an hour as ten o'clock, in view of the fact that the rail journey from Liverpool to London requires a mere two hours, you should have reached our city by noon. Another hour at most from the rail terminus to Baker Street would have brought you to our door by one o'clock this afternoon. And yet," concluded Holmes, glancing at the ormolu clock that rested upon our mantel, "you arrive at the surprising hour of ten o'clock
post meridian."
"But, Holmes," I interjected, "Lady Fairclough may have had other errands to perform before coming to us."
"No, Watson, no. I fear that you have failed to draw the proper inference from that which you have surely observed. You did note, did you not, that Lady Fairclough has brought her carpetbag with her?"
I pled guilty to the charge.
"Surely, had she not been acting in great haste, Lady Fair¬clough would have gone to her hotel, refreshed herself, and left her luggage in her quarters there before traveling to Baker Street. The fact that she has but one piece of luggage with her gives further testimony to the urgency with which she departed her home in Canada. Now, Watson, what could have caused Lady Fairclough to commence her trip in such haste?"
I shook my head. "I confess that I am at a loss."
"It was but eight days ago that the
Daily Mail
carried a dispatch marked Merthyr Tydfil, a town situated near the border of England and Wales, concerning the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Philip Llewellyn. There would have been time for word to reach Lady Fairclough in Pontefract by transatlantic cable. Fearing that delay in traveling to the port and boarding the
Murania
would cause intolerable delay, Lady Fairclough had her maid pack the fewest possible necessities in her carpetbag. She then made her way to Halifax, whence the
Murania
departed, and upon reaching Liver¬pool this morning would have made her way at once to London. Yet she arrived some nine hours later than she might have been expected to do. Since our rail service remains uninterrupted in even the most severe of climatic conditions, it can only have been the customs service, equally notorious for their punctilio and their dilatory conduct, which could be responsible."
Turning once more to Lady Fairclough, Holmes said, "On behalf of Her Majesty's Customs Service, Lady Fairclough, I tender my apologies."
There was a knock at the door and Mrs. Hudson appeared, bearing a tray with hot tea and cold sandwiches. This she placed upon the table, then took her leave.
Lady Fairclough looked at the repast and said, "Oh, I simply could not."
"Nonsense," Holmes insisted. "You have completed an arduous journey and face a dangerous undertaking. You must keep up your strength." He rose and added brandy to Lady Fairclough's tea, then stood commandingly over her while she consumed the beverage and two sandwiches.
"I suppose I was hungry after all," she admitted at last. I was pleased to see some color returning to her cheeks. I had been seriously concerned about her wellbeing.
"Now, Lady Fairclough," said Holmes, "it might be well for you to go to your hotel and restore your strength with a good night's slumber. You do have a reservation, I trust."
"Oh, of course, at Claridge's. A suite was ordered for me through the courtesy of the Blue Star Line, but I could not rest now, Mr. Holmes. I am far too distraught to sleep until I have explained my need to you, and received your assurance that you and Dr. Watson will take my case. I have plenty of money, if that is a concern."
Holmes indicated that financial details could wait, but I was pleased to be included in our guest's expression of need. So often I find myself taken for granted, while in fact I am Holmes's trusted associate, as he has himself acknowledged on many occasions.
"Very well." Holmes nodded, seating himself opposite Lady Fairclough. "Please tell me your story in your own words, being as precise with details as possible."
Lady Fairclough drained her cup and waited while Holmes filled it once again with brandy and a spot of Darjeeling. She downed another substantial draft, then launched upon her narrative.
"As you know, Mr. Holmes—and Dr. Watson—I was born in England of old stock. Despite our ancient Welsh connections and family name, we have been English for a thousand years. I was the elder of two children, the younger being my brother, Philip. As a daughter, I saw little future for myself in the home islands, and accepted the proposal of marriage tendered by my husband, Lord Fairclough, whose Canadian holdings are substantial and who indicated to me a desire to emigrate to Canada and build a new life there, which we would share."
I had taken out my notebook and fountain pen and begun jotting notes.
"At about this time my parents were both killed in a horrendous accident, the collision of two trains in the Swiss Alps while vacationing abroad. Feeling that an elaborate wedding would be disrespectful of the deceased, Lord Fairclough and I were quietly married and took our leave of England. We lived happily in Pontefract, Canada, until my husband disappeared."
"Indeed," Holmes interjected, "I had read of Lord Fairclough's disappearance. I note that you refer to him as your husband rather than your late husband still, nor do I see any mourning band upon your garment. Is it your belief that your husband lives still?"
Lady Fairclough lowered her eyes for a moment as a flush rose to her cheeks. "Although ours was somewhat a marriage of convenience, I find that I have come to love my husband most dearly. There was no discord between us, if you are concerned over such, Mr. Holmes."
"Not in the least, Lady Fairclough."
"Thank you." She sipped from her teacup. Holmes peered at it, then refreshed its contents once again. "Thank you," Lady Fairclough repeated. "My husband had been corresponding with his brother-in-law, my brother, and later, after my brother's marriage, with my brother's wife, for some time before he disappeared. I saw the envelopes as they came and went, but I was never permitted to so much as lay eyes on their contents. After reading each newly delivered letter, my husband would burn it and crush the ashes beyond recovery. After receiving one very lengthy letter—I could tell it was lengthy by the heft of the envelope in which it arrived—my husband summoned carpenters and prepared a sealed room which I was forbidden to enter. Of course I obeyed my husband's command."
"A wise policy," I put in. "One knows the story of Bluebeard."
"He would lock himself in his private chamber for hours at a time, sometimes days. When he disappeared, in fact, I half expected him to return at any moment." Lady Fairclough put her hand to her throat. "Please," she said softly, "I beg your pardon for the impropriety, but I feel suddenly so warm." I glanced away, and when I looked back at her I observed that the top button of her blouse had been undone.
"My husband has been gone now for two years, and all have given him up for dead save myself, and I will concede that even my hopes are of the faintest. During the period of correspondence between my husband and my brother, my husband began to absent himself from all human society from time to time. Gradually the frequency and duration of his disappearances increased. I feared I knew not what—perhaps that he had become addicted to some drug or unspeakable vice for the indulging of which he preferred isolation. I inferred that he had caused the construction of the sealed room for this purpose, and determined that I should learn its secret."
She bowed her head and drew a series of long, sobbing breaths, which caused her graceful bosom visibly to heave. After a time she raised her face. Her cheeks were wet with tears. She resumed her narrative.
"I summoned a locksmith from the village and persuaded him to aid me in gaining entry. When I stood at last in my husband's secret chamber I found myself confronting a room completely devoid of feature. The ceiling, the walls, the floor were all plain and devoid of ornament. There were neither windows nor fireplace, nor any other means of egress from the room."
BOOK: Dreams
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