So I am sitting in this rusty, a pack of thorobred sized emaciated dogs throwing themselves against the bars, because a dude in a yellow robe hit me with his tentacle leg.
This is what is racing through my mind on repeat. Like the start of a bad stand up routine.
A funny thing happened on my way to Carcosa this afternoon.
Not so fucking funny at all.
I kept trying to harness my will and teleport home but it was having none of it. So I tried zapping one of these dogs. I focused until I saw spots and let loose. There was a satisfying help but no lasting damage. Like static electricity more than the bolt that fried Dagon. I don’t understand enough of my power in the first place to grasp why it doesn’t want to work all of a sudden.
I wish I could remember more of the different King in Yellow tales. There was the play in three parts but the second act was said to drive all who heard it insane. I may be in the middle of act two. That would explain the dogs and rusty cage I am locked in.
I only accept rusty cage in two forms, by Soundgarden or covered by Johnny Cash. Any other form of rusty cage is unacceptable.
So I waited and tried to gather my will in a meaningful way. I just kept trying to gather it. Not sure that is meaningful. If I try and escape the cage the dogs will assuredly devour me. And I am not even sure where exactly I am. He knocked me out with that tentacle slap to the face.
I passed time by zapping the dogs in the maw as they got too close to me. It is possible if given long enough I can train them to fear getting close to me. Or until the King comes to kill me. Whichever comes first.
And that is when the King floated into the room. The dogs cowered at his approach and with just a look from him they left the room.
“Time to for your execution trespasses. Any last words?”
“How about we skip the whole death part and you just help me figure out to get home?”
“You trespass on my realm and expect mercy! Give me a good reason to spare your pathetic life. Just one and I will consider it.”
“Where is everyone else?”
“Dead. They died in service of the Elder Ones. Sacrifices had to be made. Dance in the light of the black stars! Feed Yog Soggoth. They must be purged. I said no and they were purged anyway. Purged! Like those that trespass!”
He has lost it.
“They tricked you and then purged your people behind your back?”
“The elder ones do as they will. My people taken, my city barren. Just me and the dogs, the dogs and me. I wait for their return to take me as well. What use is a king with no people to rule? What use is a God with no worshippers?”
“Any other people live on this planet?”
“Yes, other cities, other people.”
“Can’t you get any of them to move here?”
He floated in front of me, a confused look on his face. In his madness he never thought of trying to find new residents. How long had he been all alone here?
“How long ago?”
“How long ago what?”
“Was everyone purged?”
“The day they all died of course! And you must die!”
“Maybe you can help train me, so I can be strong enough to prevent a purge on my home planet.”
“They seek to purge your world?”
“Tricks! You say that to save your own trespassing life!”
“No. It is true. Mother told me.”
“Mother? Mother! The universe spoke to You! More lies, lies on top of lies and covered with lies! Mother never speaks. I have called and begged and pled with her. She is silent. Silent!”
“Maybe she sent me here to learn from you. The secrets of defeating the Elder Ones. A powerful man like you must know all of their secrets. Teach me, please.”
“If she sent you maybe she will help me. Help me fill my city again. Does she hear? Does she hear!”
He began spinning in place. Faster and faster until a flash brightened the room. When I cleared my vision enough to see again he was gone. And on cue the mongrels came back in and resumed the game of snarl and zap. I wondered if Apricus had panicked yet? If she had begun to search for me. I don’t have any idea if she could even hope to find me this far away. Across light years on a planet of insanity. But I kept the faith she would find a way. And I kept silently imploring Mother to help.
I have nothing else to cling to.
In the books they never mention the long boring waits between the sudden bursts of action. Or needing to really use the bathroom. And I am bored and need to pee very much badly. Like desperately. I feel doing it on the floor may give the wrong impression to the crazy king. And he seems just unstable enough to feed me to the dogs for it.
Eventually he came floating back into the room. It felt like months had gone by and I was doing the pee pee shuffle in the cage.
“What is wrong with you trespasser?”
“I need to pee. Desperately.”
The cage door swung open and he pointed down the hall. I went as fast as I could move, pain and need driving me. There was a pot in the middle of the floor and I nearly filled it. As I did I considered my next move. I have no idea where I am, no magic to teleport and an insane man with tentacles for legs that wants me dead. And those horse dogs.
I decided to pursue the idea he could help me. It isn’t the best option. It is the only option.
I returned to where he hovered. The yellow robes billowing about and the hood pulled low over his face. All I could really make out of his face was two pinpoints of red that I assume are his eyes.
“You didn’t try and run? Are you insane? You walk back to the room of your most assured painful demise? Either you are a fool or you speak truth. Truth. True speaking or crazy? Crazy. Mother, can you hear me? Is he your vessel?”
I just stood there.
“Follow me trespasser.”
“Um my name is Mikhail.”
“What? Impale? Just follow me.”
We walked down hallways seemingly picked at random. Up stairs in one room and down stairs in another. I wish I had breadcrumbs to trail behind me. Finally we came to two glass doors which opened to a balcony. Maybe the one I first witnessed him standing on yesterday morning. I could not tell, I just knew it felt nice to be outside. The cloud cover had gone and it was a clear night.
“I asked Mother if I should kill you. If she sends a sign, you live. If not, well I can toss you from here and count the number of times you bounce off of the street below.”
I stood stoically watching the sky waiting for Mother to send her sign. No way she would let me die here.
“Looks like your life is not worth a thing trespasser. Time to die!”
I tried to argue but he had me by the throat hanging over the edge. I gurgled pathetically. He looked at me with the same look you would have for an empty sack about to be tossed into the trash. No empathy, no thought.
And with that I was falling. I don’t know how tall the tower was but I knew this was a fatal fall. Time seemed to slow as I gained speed.
And I watched a shooting star go across the darkness. Too little, far too late Mother. I began to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. My last thoughts going to Apricus. At least we got a few precious days together. I hope She doesn’t waste her remaining days mourning me. Or worse searching for me with a kernel of hope in Her heart.
I love you beautiful.
And I hit the ground. No splat. I lifted my arms and moved my legs. Turned my head.
“Well that is surprising. I swear that should have killed me.”
I looked around and found myself back on the balcony I had just been tossed off of. And floating above me the King in Yellow stared at me.
“You got your reprieve. Mother showed fit to give a sign. Who are you?”
“Mikhail Ehrenkov. From Earth.”
“And what makes you so special that Mother herself seeks to speak on your behalf? Shooting stars. Starlight star bright fill the heart with vicious fright! The elder ones in their great depths. Coming to purge!”
“I am to fight against these elder ones in an effort to save my planet.”
“You? Hahahahaha! You can’t even shock a doggie properly! What can you hope to do against their terrible power?”
“I stood up against Dagon. Fried his brain with my paltry power.”
“Lies! Lies! Show me, liar!”
He put his hands on the sides of head. Colors swirled like when I teleport. The scene of the battle replayed in my skull. Paused. Rewound and frame by frame I ran up the dragon’s back. Lightning playing across my fists and arcing through it. I placed my hands on either side of it’s large head and sent the purple electricity into it. As the eyes popped the scene went in half speed. I heard the sizzling of boiling water in serpent eyes.
“You did this? Dagon is dead? Dagon is dead! Why did you not tell me this before? A celebration! Dragon eyes! Pop! Pop! Damn dragon came and and forced the purge. Fire and wings and purge, purge purge. Now he is dead and I am still alive!”
“I did it to save the woman I love.”
“Hmmmm. Love? Love. Love. Quickening heart beat, sweaty palms. Yes. I have loved. Loved and lost. Madness and death. Purged along with everyone else. Good enough reason I suppose. Dogs!”
I don’t know what to do. He is beyond madness. I need to get him rational enough to open a gate home for me.
“Can you send me home?”
“Home? Dogs! Dogs come and then we feast.”
The mongrels came, seven in all. They looked at me like they were ready to attack. Then they lined up and bowed before the King in Yellow.
“Rise! He is a friend. Slayer of Dagon! Pop! Pop! The dragon eyes sizzle like fat on the fire. Lightning and death!”
The dogs looked at me and I swear I saw disbelief in their eyes. As if a mirage the air around them simmered and where seven dogs sat now stood seven men in black armor.
“We feast my dogs of war! Dagon is dead!”
Six of them split off and entered the building. The remaining man stared at me. I saw scorch marks around his mouth and nose.
“Look, we got off on the wrong foot back there with the whole cage and zapping thing. I’m Mikhail.”
I extended my hand and he looked at it in confusion. He sniffed it.
“You slew Dagon. Why did you not just slay us and escape? Why play with us and send little shocks?”
“I don’t know. My power doesn’t work right here.”
That seemed like enough of an explanation for him. He turned and left without another word.
“Come. We feast.”
I shook my head. This whole fucking place is insane.
I followed him into the spire and we took a less convoluted route to a large open room. A long table was laden with large silver pots and platters with strange fruits and launched of meat. I swear one of them looked like that cat from the field outside the city. The King sat at the head of the table and seven warriors took up slots along the sides. I sat on the side with the odd number and a look of respect showed on their faces.
“You choose to sit as warrior instead of at the head of the table like a ruler. Odd behavior Mikhail. Commendable but strange,” one of them said and the others nodded.
“Yes, yes, stranger in a land of death. Sanity sapped and dragons bone snapped. Hahahahaha! Feast! Dagon lies dead!”
A cheer erupted around me.
“I am Haster of the Yellow Sign, Lord of Nothing but an empty city, King of Carcosa. These are the my dogs of war.”
Dishes were passed around, I didn’t know what was safe to eat. I guessed they would not bother with poison when he could have just let me hit the ground. I was actually not hungry and took small bits here and there with no real intention of eating any of it. Just enough to seem grateful. Or at least I hoped.
No one even noticed. They tore into the food like animals. All except Haster and I. I never noticed until we got in here that he wore some kind of mask that covered all of his face. Now that the hood was thrown back I saw that his eyes definitely glowed red. The mask reminded me of the Guy Fawkes masks worn by Anonymous. But unsettling somehow, if I stared too long I felt whispers in the back of my head. Urging me to grab a knife off of the table and stab the others or myself. It was not pleasant in the least.
“We must figure out what is blocking your power. A mental block? Give me a show, shoot a bolt like a dragon is here!”
I gathered my will, my frustration, all the feelings I have of desperately wanting to return to Apricus. It throbbed inside of me, a dam ready to burst. I concentrated on one of the strange fruits on my plate and lashed out.
It smoked a little. Slightly charred.
“The fruit lives to see another day.”
I nodded. This makes no sense. I could feel it inside of me. But it was throttled upon release. I watched as he launched am arc that sizzled down the table and destroyed the chair at the far end. Vaporized it. A scent of burning ozone and wood filled the air.
“Like that. I meant like that.”
“I don’t know what is wrong with my power here. I can feel it but when I release it…”
“A shadow of the power.”
“I must think. The second act grows near. I need time to ready myself. Everyone go!”
The warriors stood quickly and I followed suit. They took me down a flight of stairs and showed me to bedroom. I walked in and heard them lock the door from the outside. I guess I will hang out here.
I decided to nap.
I was on the shore of the lake of clouds, Lake Hali I knew now. The mist waves lapping the shore. I sat on a stone, bare feet hanging over the cumulus sea. The night sky solid black yet the flickering of a darker than dark made constellations that could cause madness if stared at too long.
A man in a tweed suit came walking down the shore and waved a hand at me. I waved back at the stranger and watched as he approached. He was a scholarly type from appearance and seemed put of breath and flush with excitement.
“Good day sir, Henry. Henry Wilcox. Glad to make your acquaintance”
“Mikhail Ehrenkov. Nice to meet you Mr. Wilcox. What brings you to Carcosa?”
He looked startled and said, “Carcosa Maine?”
“No my friend, we are far from Maine.”
He chuckled at that. He stared at me for a moment then asked, “Shouldn’t you be readying yourself for battle?”
“What do you mean?”
“As I told Channing, the dark ones come. He laughed me off. But the swamp people knew. The Eskimos knew. You know. They come and you are unprepared.”
He began screaming and clawing at his face. The words guttural and inhuman, long bloody tears on his cheeks where his hands raked over and again. I sat comfortly on my rock and watched the display.
With no warning a thirty foot tentacle came from the clouds below and grabbed his bleeding and screaming form and pull it beneath the surface. It should have been horrifying but I was lacsadasical and watched on bored as my mind screamed this wasn’t right.
I woke covered in sweat. And immediately wasn’t sure if I had really awoken or just fallen deeper into dream. From outside the door I heard chanting in the same tongue the poor man in my dream had said. Again, it was guttural and thick sounding. Listening to it was like staring at Haster and his mask. It was a darkness washing over my mind. It glmade grave promises of madness and death. A call to things of evil incomprehensible to mortal man. Of odd angles and colors of stain and bile. Howling dogs joined the infernal chorus and I found myself sitting in my bed, arms wrapped around my head and rocking back and forth. Though I could not see the black stars above I knew they swirled and slowly grew closer to the spires of Carcosa. And on the dark stars lived the Elder God’s. They were being summoned and came to claim their harvest.
Blood began to flow from my ears and eyes.
I heard my name in the chanting, was this one of the dark ones singling me out?
“Come for me! I am not afraid!”
The words grew louder, the feeling of impending doom nearly drowning me.
“I am ready for you! Come get me you bastards! I will not go easy!”
Apricus? She shouldn’t be here. It is too dangerous.
“Leave me my love, they come from the depths. Of space and time.”
“Haley, come out of there!”
A pounding on the door, the howls growing louder and more filled with madness and hunger. I ran to it and tried to open it. I need to escape.
“Haley! Wake up!”
But I am awake. Aren’t I? I must be. The dream was at the shore of the lake of clouds. This is the waking nightmare aspect of the day.
And suddenly I was covered in cold water. I looked around me but no one was there. Now they were toying with me. Using auditory hallucinations and tricks to throw me off balance. More pounding at the door. I ran to the window and saw I was only about two stories off the ground. I cannot shoot electricity but I can zap. I wonder if I harness my will and jump put the window and zap the ground as I am about to hit maybe I can do just enough to cushion the landing. And twenty or so feet won’t actually kill me. The door frame began to splinter and I my mind was made up for me. Shielding my face from the window I ran into and through it while harnessing my will. And was on my back on the floor.
In the movies it just takes a good run and the hero can leap through a window. Apperently those are flimsy windows. Also, now that I think about it they tend to have beem shot a couple times thus lowering the surface stability of the plane of glass. I grabbed a chair and threw it at the window. It bounced back. What kind of glass did they use in this city? I kicked the window and managed to bruise my heel.
Movies are bullshit. The door slowly began to bend in towards me. Cracks running the length of it. The constant howls and deafening chants making rational thought impossible. I started punching the window as the door finally blew inward.
“Apricus, I’m sorry.”
Blinding light filled the room. The howling and screams began to fade away as the light slowly overtook me. I blinked as it bathed me and felt hands tugging on me.
“Haley! Can you hear me? Jackie he is not responding. Haley, can you hear me?”
“You found me. Let’s get out of here before Haster comes back with his hounds,” I mumbled.
“Did you say Haster? Haley what are you talking about?”
I heard Jackie scurry over, she must be in humongous spider form. Glad my eyes were closed. “He did say Haster. Very interesting. Can you hear me Mikhail?”
“Yes Jackie. I am right here. We are in Carcosa and Haster, the King in Yellow is in the midst of Act Two. We have to get out of here immediately. My powers are not working right, just a fraction of power no matter what I do. We need to go.”
And then I focused my eyes finally, only to find myself on the bed in the apartment.
“Um. Looks like you two did all the heavy lifting already.”
They stared in confusion.
“What is the last thing you remember before going to Carcosa?” Jackie asked.
“I was reading through the Lovecraft book. And then decided to teleport to the library for lunch. Ended up in Carcosa and trapped in a room as everything went to shit around me.”
“How long were you there?” Jackie asked. Apricus stood behind staring at me. They both still seemed confused.
“I popped in at the shore of Lake Hali. The King in Yellow saw me and I tried to come home but I couldn’t,” I said. Then I replayed the entire trip for them as they listened intently. “And then you were there and brought me home again. I had given up hope. I thought you were the dogs of war and I was going to be either eaten or driven insane.”
Apricus stepped forward and hugged me. Then placed her hands on my face and stared into my eyes and said, “It has been an hour since I left to get lunch. When you didn’t come to the library we came to get you. I found you on the bed with that book in your hands. Your eyes were all white and you were unresponsive.”
“No, I was in Carcosa. That is impossible.”
Jackie carefully looked at the book on the bed. She sent webs onto it and recoiled in terror. She wrapped it completely in web and looked at Apricus, “Dark magic infused in this book. A trap to lure an unwitting person to their doom. I need to take this to the library and try and disassemble the spells through out it. Maybe learn who made it.”
She turned to me and extended one of her forelegs to my temple. I barely flinched. A little but honestly I am not a spider fan. I was semi-proud of myself. I felt her probing my mind and tried to stay still. She pulled back after a few minutes and made a clicking noise with her mandible.
Not at all creepy.
“Where do you get this book?”
“My cousin Chad gave it to me years ago for my birthday. I never opened it because I use my kindle for the most part.”
“Electronic book. I have a thousand books on it.”
Her eyes grew larger as she contemplated an electronic library. I grabbed it off the end table by the bed and handed it to her. She shook it and tried to turn it on. I swiped the screen and shaped her my library. She picked up the controls of it quickly and rapidly began going through it.
“Jackie, focus. The kindle will still be there. We need answers. Haley, you said Chad have it to you?”
“Yes. I sort of forgot I had it until our talk about Lovecraft. After my shower I got curious and grabbed it. After a few minutes glancing through I set it down and tried to go to lunch.”
“But you were trapped in a spell and didn’t know it. Ingenious design. We must learn more about this.”
“But I have held the book before and never been trapped. I am sure I leaves through the pages once or twice tight after getting it.”
“But you powers had not awakened yet. Think back, was it before or after the wendigo?”
“The year after. It was the only thing I got for my birthday that year and it showed up a week late. I was just grateful someone remembered me.”
Jackie took the book and left. I stared at the ceiling. Was it true? First Timmy and now the book pointed at Chad working for the bad guys. I couldn’t, or didn’t, want to believe he was working against me this entire time.
It made no sense. He was the only one that gave a shit about me when I was at my lowest. The only family that ever called or cared. It could not have been an elaborate ploy.
“We need to talk to him. I don’t think he is aware that he is working for the wrong side. We need to open his eyes. Maybe bring him and his family here to keep them safe.”
Apricus just looked at me for a long moment before nodding.
“Traps and deception all about. Another time I nearly lost you.”
“How did you save me from the book? None of it make any sense to me. It was so real.”
“Thank Jackie. She has seen similar mind traps in the past and she fought the magic while I called put to you. I don’t really understand much of the workings behind it myself.”
She laid down put her head on my chest. We just laid there lost in thought. Nothing makes sense except for this. Holding her and letting the world fade away.
What if this was just another trap?