I intend to dispel all rumors relating to my short time at Miskatonic University. Yes, it is true that I gave a series of lectures on classical art during the spring of 1925. So too did I come into acquaintance with one Richard Pickman. Despite what many tabloids and penny newspapers would have you believe, no overly strange occurrence happened involving Mr. Pickman and myself. It is true that I saw his studio, his works. He struck me as a brilliant painter, if a bit macabre. No, I am certain that he is dead, wholly and entirely. Yes, I am aware of the fake Pickman paintings that surface from time to time. I, unlike certain sensationalist newspapers, am certain of their falseness. After all, how can a man who died in Boston in 1926 paint a picture in Berlin in 1943? I seem to have answered all of your questions. Oh, one more? No, every real Pickman was burned by his relatives after his disappearance. And why would I be interested in such gruesome paintings anyway? No, there is no secret vault in my home, and if there was, I certainly wouldn’t tell some stuck up Herald-Picayune reporter! No, you may not inspect my home for any reason! Please leave immediately!
My, I seem to have lost my temper there. Should be more careful about interviews. People look at me oddly anyways, because of the rumors of my seeing the source of Pickman’s genius. If they knew the truth, they’d deem me mad and let me rot in Konigsreich Sanitarium or some such place. Some days I wish I could just tell them, but I know it would be the end of my days as a respected art professor at Hexehugel University of Art. The doctors said that the Bavarian air would be good for my health after the incident that lead to Richard Upton Pickman to seemingly disappear from the waking world. I feel the chill of the open window against the warmth of the fire in the back of the study. But now the fire is dying down. I’d better add a log. A voice-
“Guten tag, Professor Nickolson. It’s been a while.”
I recognize the voice. The low growl, with a hint of soft undertones, making me feel both comforted and terrified at once. A blur of movement, and he’s brought out a snack for himself. From my short glance at it, it appeared to be some sinuous, elongated cut of meat. I turn away. No matter how many times he eats in front of me, I never get used to it. I pour myself a glass of scotch. Pickman doesn’t drink.
“Richard Upton Pickman. I don’t recall seeing you since, oh, at least 1946. What have you been up to, my friend?” I ask.
He answers, “Anouther painting for the collection, my dear colleague.”
He has always called me his ‘colleague’. I never quite understood why. After all, I’m just a teacher. I haven’t painted anything truly original since 1917, when I was sent home from the war with a lost leg. Pickman got me anouther, somewhere. Devil knows where, or how he found one that fit! I still limp a little, something to do with mismatched nerves and blood types and such. It’s all good though, the limp helps keep up appearances.
“I think this one is one of my best. I call it, ‘The Hills of the North’.”
Pickman places his snack down, half-eaten, on the carpet. I do hate it when he does that, and often scold him for it. Of course, each time he claims to have forgotten, and places it again into his satchel bag. Now, I’ll need to replace the room’s carpet yet again. Oh well.
“I… I don’t know what to say! It’s so… complete! It reminds me of your earliest works, when you worked such magic with the still life, the landscape! And yet it features that perfection of facial expressions you so often create! My dear Mr. Pickman, you have just perfected your art form!” I cry.
Pickman replies, “I wouldn’t say all that, but yes, it is good, isn’t it?”
He had always been giving me paintings. For as long as I’ve known him, he has painted for me surreal, yet all too real, images of terror and fear. It was always his gift, the macabre. As Michelangelo was to sculpture and Da Vinci was to science, Pickman was to art. Not as the world knew him, of course. He was never given the acclaim he deserved. I suppose that may have been a contributing reason to his disappearance.
“So, any news from the world of dream?” I ask nonchalantly.
Pickman, with an air of boredom, picks up his snack and explains, “Oh, you know. The cats of Ulthar are on the warpath again. I think it may be against the Sparrows this time. Other than that, I met with our mutual friend Randolph Carter a week or so ago. He told me to send his greetings. He’s on yet anouther of his foolish dream-quests.”
“Carter? He talked to me about some 'majestic sunset city', but I didn't think he'd actually go looking for it!” I exclaim.
And then Pickman conjected, "One day that man will get himself into some real trouble, you know."
"I only hope he doesn't drag everyone else down along with him." I remark.
If you were to stand outside the door on any of Pickman's visits, you wouldn't think anything amiss. Just two old friends sitting around shooting the breeze. Of course, if you entered, you'd think something completely different. Much like now, as the door swings open. Our gaze quickly moves toward the sound of the creaky, archaic hinges. It would appear that the reporter from earlier has re-entered my home. He seems to be standing in stark terror of something. Is it Pickman's new painting hanging above the hearth?
"Bababababababababababa," he babbles.
"Now calm down dear boy, there's nothing to be afraid of here." I say, soothingly.
"Buhh.. Buhh.. Wha... What..." He continues, raising a finger at my friend.
"Now there there, it's rude to point. Come sit. Have you any more questions for me? Or did you lose your way while leaving?" I ask, rising slowly.
"Nuh.. Nuh.. No! G- Get away! Stay clear!" He shouts.
I walk slowly towards him. He turns and tries to run, but trips over the footlocker I foolishly left in the hall. I catch up with him and bring him back to the fire. After an hour and a cup of hot tea, he starts to calm down. Once he is able to articulate speech again, he exclaims,
"Dear god! What was that?! Oh heaven above what was that?!"
"My good sir," I say, "I can't pretend to understand what caused such panic in you, but I can assure you that it's alright now."
"But... Then what was..."
"You were pointing at an empty chair." I assure him.
He looks for the chair, then realizing that he is sitting in it, jumps up. I grab his shoulders and slowly lower him back down.
"The monster! It was.... It was...."
"There was no monster. It was only your imagination. Now, Doctor Eichmann is on the way. You just stay right there." I say.
I pour him anouther cup of tea. As I hand it to him, the doorbell rings. I begin to walk to the hall door as he suddenly points to the mantle and exclaims
"The painting! Where is the painting? That horrible, eldritch painting!"
"Why, the Adoration of the Magi is nothing to be afraid of!" I say, as I leave toward the door.
He looks up again at the mantle. Staring at the painting, he recognizes the masterful style of Sandro Botticelli. Nothing is amiss, Cosimo de' Medici still kneeled by the virgin, Gaspare del Lama still stood pointing at the observer. After his ordeal, it was extremely calming to see something as normal as the painting. Me and Dr. Eichmann walk into the study. The reporter turns to us.
"It's all so... surreal. I saw the monster, but now it's gone! Where did it go? Was it Pickman's model?"
"Calm now, dear boy. Dere ist no monster here. Dere never vas. Come along vit me back to mein office. Ve'll sort all zis out." Says the doctor. He helps the poor man up and out. At the front door, I say
"Would you excuse me, Dr. Eichmann? I do have work to get back to."
"Of course, Herr Nickolson. I'll tell you in ze morning how your friend is feeling. Guten nacht." Says the doctor.
He helps the reporter into the car and steps in himself. As they sped away, the reporter turns glances back and sees, for just a split second, a hunched, vaguely canine yet all too human creature silhouetted in the study window.
It's been a few weeks since then. After Doc Eichmann's checkout, I was sent back to Arkham. The boys at the Sanitarium said that writing it down would make me feel better. I never could remember what happened, though. One minute, I was leaving Nickolson's house, the next I was in the local hospital, being caressed by some kraut nurse. I'm back at work at the Herald-Picayune. They moved me over to the new sports column, where all I have to do is watch the Fighting Cephalopods lose to the Kingsport Sparrows. They check up on me every once in a while to make sure I'm still alright.
They say that I was all quiet from when the doctor stood me up until we were driving away. I apparently turned my head and screamed to wake the dead.
Signed, Teddy Morris
August 12th, 1958.
Addendum- This document, among others, was found in the desk of one Mr. Theodore Morris, of Arkham, Massachusetts on September 1st, 1960. Mr. Morris was found dead in the bathroom of his Church St. apartment. He had killed himself using razor blades, probably some days prior to discovery.
Constable Brian O'Donovan
Report September 3, 1960.