("Arena of Decisions," by Ed Emshwiller. Cover for Amazing, March 1964.)
I have been dreaming about the mountain lately, but I've dreamt of the mansion last night's dream was set in before, I just know it. A huge, ancient place, empty. Decrepit, occupied sporadically by people who don't deserve it. I'm on the cusp of remembering the last dream, but it just won't come. In last night's phantasmagory, it was largely a struggle of supernatural possession. There were two ghosts in the mansion-- Walter, who had a cane, & Victor, who didn't. Both had been old men, wrapped up in some melodrama with each other. Maybe they had been in love with the same woman, or maybe it was more. Maybe it was worse. Lots of: "Don't you know who I am? Don't you know what I am?" bluster from yours truly, but it worked. I think the people living there were old-- someone holding down a vast rent controlled space, but more or less confined to a single room of the place. So there was a suite around that single room that held the smell of the aged-- creams & medicines-- while the rest of the place was a riot of rotting leather upholstery, the dark wood of fine furniture, musty curtains, all effectively abandoned to the ghosts. Victor was on the first floor, to the left of the living old lady's room, & Walter was on the second, to the right. The power had been shut off to the mansion; the old woman had a generator, but to turn on the lights in the rest of the house someone had to peddle on a bicycle, Ed Begley Jr. style. & I think handstil was there; at least for part of it? I remember she was leaving, & Elias wasn't coming, & I went upstairs, & Hils said "he'll come when he's ready, don't go get him, he knows I'm waiting," & I was like "oh, I wasn't going to get him." & I wasn't. The bulk of the dream was made up of "feat tests." You know, the overwhelming dread would come down, & I would not let it paralyze me, that kind of thing. The internal confrontation with terror, you know what I mean? The sort of spookiness that comes down on you when you are an eleven year old kid camping in the woods all by yourself. Except, it wasn't irrational in the dream-- Walter & Victor weren't fake, they were in evidence, poltergeisting around. There was a shelf of books on a variety of crafts-- knitting, carpentry, husbandry-- & if you pulled out the book on masonry, a secret safe would open. In the safe were two empty pouches, a feather fascinator, & a straight razor.