By Portrait 7 Comments
Act I, Part III: In which an unlikely ally is found
Something grabbed him, and he stopped with a jolt that cracked his teeth together. He looked up expecting to gaze into the hollow eyes of the Byakhee, but he was still deep below the earth. He could see the faint gleam of teeth, but nothing else. Then he was being pulled through tunnels of soft earth, and complete darkness surrounded him.
Time passed. There was nothing but darkness, and the sound of Dorian’s captor/savior snuffling. He did not struggle…for no matter what the creature had in mind, Dorian knew that wandering the pitch tunnels would be an equally gruesome fate. Foul earth (the last remains of those who wandered this land long ago, when the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred was still chronicling the dark corners of the worlds in his curséd tome) chittered.
After a day, a minute, an hour, an eternity, the pitch parted, and tendrils of light became visible. The being holding him scrabbled on loose dirt, the floor gave way, and they fell down a waterfall of bones into a vast pit of osseous residue. There were tooth-marks on each one…Dorian tried to scrabble to his feet, but the slick bones shifted and sent him tumbling down again. A doglike snout pushed into his face, its breath heavy with the charnel reek of the graveyard. It snuffled at him, and then grabbed his shoulder and began pulling him toward the sheer stone wall above the pit. Despite the precarious terrain, the beast walked steadily, and scaled the ichor-slick stone rapidly.
Of course, when they reached the top, Dorian intended to push the THING right back in. He’d let it take him this far, but he had come much to far to become some graveyard dog’s meal. But as they ascended the lip of the cliff, Dorian saw something else…(never mind the segmented back of something below in the bones….the rumbling that shook all) the shattered bodies of more of the doglike beings, dropped from some great height. And here, the carrion-eater mourned, and Dorian recalled the old tales…
Of the Ghouls, led by one Richard Upton Pickman, and their attempt to help the wandering dreamer Randolph Carter…but at the last stage of their journey, in the final moments, the dread Old One Nyarlathotep struck them down from the air with little more than a gesture. And since then, there are no more ghouls in the cold wastes. Though it seems there may, in fact, be one…
And it is this last ghoul who saved Mr. Dorian Gray, though its motives may only be guessed at…perhaps it was a form of vengeance against Gray’s captors, the Great Old Ones. Perhaps it was lonely. And perhaps the poor thing was starving and thought a dreamer (for that is not dead which can eternal lie…) would be able to take it to the bursting burial grounds of another world.
And perhaps Dorian wanted someone who knew the ins and outs of the dream world…or a bodyguard. Perhaps he had a premonition of the ghastly role the ghoul would play in later events. Whatever the case…
“I thought ghouls could speak? What happened to you?” Dorian asked the demon, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt (not that there was much point…being dragged through the dirt doesn’t do much for fashion). The ghoul cocked his head and whined softly, whistling through four-inch needle teeth. “Well, no matter. Seems you’re not all you once were, eh?” he chuckled. “I’ll call you Algernon. If that doesn’t suit you, just say so. Come along then.”
And with that they set off towards the stairway that leads to the land of shallow sleep and awakening…they of course had many adventures, but those are tales for another time.
The storyteller stops talking…the dreamlands fade away like mist, forgotten like a nightmare upon waking. They are left alone in the crowded room once more. No one moves to turn back on the light.