David sat there and listened to Gretchen explain what she saw.
“Coming from anyone else I’d have to say that they were crazy. Coming from you and it sounds perfectly rational,” David said.
“Wait…they’re not doing a play, but some kind of ritual? What kind of ritual?”
“I don’t know. I’ve heard of the play, ‘the King in Yellow,’ but I don’t know much about it. I know enough to know that it’s dangerous.”
“How do you know this?” Beth asked.
“I didn’t have what you’d call a traditional upbringing.”
“Mine was even less traditional. I promise you that.”
David couldn’t argue. She had had a messed up childhood. Being a daughter of a cultist was a little worse than mommy and daddy having a divorce.
“So, let’s go find out what we can,” he said. “If we’re going to fight this, we have to know what we’re up against.”
So, they started with the first way point for all research, the place everyone goes to for answers: they went to David’s place and Googled “King in Yellow.” What they found was sparse and often contradictory.
“This isn’t helping,” Gretchen said. “They say you can find anything on the internet, but that simply isn’t true.”
“I guess its back to the library,” Beth said.
“The internet lied to us,” David said. “But maybe an ancient, hidden occult ceremony is asking a little too much.”
David drove them to the large, gray, stone library and they went to the front desk.
“I need to see a copy of a book called “The King in Yellow,” Gretchen said.
The clerk - not the cute gothy one - looked it up on her computer.
“It’s currently checked out…wait…it’s not supposed to be checked out. It’s from the forbidden collection,” the clerk said with a concerned look on her round face.
“Who checked it out?” David asked.
“It doesn’t say. This isn’t supposed to happen.”
The librarian looked very upset and started rushing around and looking through file cabinets. He turned back to Beth and Gretchen.
“Well, I guess we have a problem here,” he said.
He could tell that Gretchen was thinking.
“What do you have for us Gretchen?” He asked.
“If we can’t get the actual book, then we have to get a book that at least discusses it.” Gretchen walked up to the counter. “Excuse me, miss. Might you have a copy of Ceremonis Occultis?”
The flustered librarian looked it up on her computer.
“Yes we do. It’s in our special collection so you can’t check it out but I’ll bring it to you.”
“Thank you very much,” Gretchen said.
They took a seat at one of the longer tables and waited.
“Okay, you got to tell me how you know all this crazy stuff! It’s not like you can find this crap out on the History Channel. I don’t know of many teenagers that would spend their free time looking up weird occult stuff,” Beth said, throwing her arms up in the air.
Gretchen looked uncomfortable.
“My father was the high priest in a…pagan religion,” Gretchen said.
“Oh,” Beth said. “I guess that explains a few things.”
Gretchen used one of her ivory hands to move a strand of loose, silver hair back behind her ear. She usually did that when she was uncomfortable. As the silence grew awkward the librarian came with an old and dusty leather bound book.
“There you go,” the librarian said as she gave Gretchen a pair of white gloves to handle the book with.
“Thank you,” Gretchen said as she slipped the gloves on.
She opened the book and began looking through it.
“I remember from my father’s copy that there is a section that discusses the King in Yellow. I did not read it carefully and it was a very long time ago.”
It took a half hour before Gretchen found it. Beth sat there texting while they waited and David had pulled out his homework. Might as well do something productive.
“Here it is,” Gretchen said. She sat up and leaned in close. “It says here that the King in Yellow is a two act play that isn’t supposed to exist. It says its author is unknown and that the copies that do exist cannot be traced to their printer. Let’s see…the first act is banal and mundane: a typical Gothic horror of nobles at a party. They are visited by the phantom of truth who is a servant of the King in Yellow.”
Then Gretchen fell silent as she continued to read.
“This isn’t good,” Gretchen muttered.
“What is it?” Beth asked.
“The first act is mundane and seemingly normal, but it’s all a set up for the second act. The second act is said to cause insanity, visions, it may open portals to other realms and invite other realms to invade our world. At the end of the play, the King in Yellow himself comes and visits death upon the characters. Simply reading the play causes terrible things, but when read aloud it will summon the avatar of Hastur, the King in Yellow.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Beth said.
“Because it isn’t good. Is Hastur like this Nylarthotep?” David asked.
“Yes, similar and just as dangerous. I overheard the snobs speaking. They will practice the second act tomorrow. We can’t let that happen,” Gretchen said.
There was more than one demon out there. First the glimpse of an overpowering evil being known as Nylarthotep and now this Hastur or King in Yellow might show up and kill everyone. How many bad things were out there in the world? How weak was humanity? It felt like there was an entire unseen world out there and humanity was just blissfully ignorant about the dangers that surrounded them.
“What do you suggest?” David asked.
“I don’t know, but we can’t let it be read aloud.”
“We can steal it from them,” Beth said.
“I don’t know where they live,” David said.
“They only have one copy. We must assume that it is with their leader,” Gretchen said.
“Then we stop them here, at the theater,” David said. “It’s the only place we know they’ll be. We’ll have to keep watch.”
“We must be quick. We cannot let them finish reading the play,” Gretchen said.
“Is this King in Yellow guy like one of my shadow demons?” Beth asked.
“No, far worse,” Gretchen said.
“Let us hope that we don’t find out.”
“You can tell me, Gretch. I’m in this with you.”
“He can alter reality and if he doesn’t kill everyone around him outright, he will cast them off into another dimension where alien creatures will gnaw at their souls for eternity.”
“Right. That is worse than my shadow men.”
The girls went off to the cafeteria for dinner and he went to the local Taco Bell. He sat there eating his burrito and thinking about all the craziness that was going on. He knew there was strange stuff in the world: he had seen it first hand in Iraq. But Gretchen had a way of making the “insane” into “normal.”
He thought as he chewed.
Would he have found any of this out if he hadn’t fought the cultists in Iraq or would he have lived his entire life ignorant about what really happened behind the scenes?
He knew the answer to that. Most people were oblivious to this strange reality and he would have been one of them. He’d be glad to be one of them.
But was ignorance really better?
After he ate he went back to his apartment and sat down to watch a movie. Cleaning his guns always helped him think. It had a way of clearing his mind.
His AK-47 he preferred to keep dirty. It was a rough, ugly gun and liked to be dirty. His Crusader Broadsword, an AR-10 in .308, he kept clean and lubed. It was his favorite gun and he actually liked cleaning it. Back in the Corp he’d watch a movie on his laptop as he cleaned and he kept up that tradition.
He watched “Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” as he cleaned and thought.
He knew that he had seen something ancient and horrible in Iraq and Gretchen had told him what it was. Now some idiot students were trying to summon something as bad as the entity he once saw.
It was against campus policy to have fire arms, but he was going to have to say “hell with it” and bring one. If it took a bullet or three to stop this King in Yellow from being summoned, he would do it. Now that he had this knowledge he had a duty to protect innocent people from the dangers.
He went to bed and his sleep was disturbed by strange dreams all night. He dreamed of a giant, underwater city. The buildings, if they could be called that, were made of titanic slabs of a strange, grayish/green stone and the whole city seemed to be almost blurred, as if it weren’t entirely in this reality. The angles of the architecture were all wrong, like strange optical illusions that couldn’t really exist in the real world.
A sound was coming from deep within the city that he couldn’t make out. It was low and rumbling and very inhuman.
He woke up before he found out what the sound was. He was thankful for that because he had the strong impression that it wasn’t anything good. He also had a strong impression that it had been more than just a dream.
In the morning he packed his 1911 in his shoulder bag and went to class. It was history with Gretchen. He liked that class and it wasn’t just because he loved history. Gretchen made it fun. She would ask the strangest questions that would put the professor in a state of confusion. He couldn’t tell if she was completely ignorant on normal history or if she was a conniving genius. Maybe both.
“I’m worried,” Gretchen said, as he entered the class.
“About the play?”
He sat down and stretched his legs out.
“Yes. We can’t allow them to perform that play. The second act is most dangerous.”
“We’ll stop them,” he said.
“Did you read today’s chapter?” He asked, changing the subject. She was nervous and he didn’t want her dwelling on it when it wouldn’t do any good.
“I did. Did you?”
“Nah. I was a little distracted.”
“Shame. It was rather interesting.”
“Today’s Friday, right?”
“Well, if we live, tomorrow I’ll take you shooting.”
“I wish I knew how to right now. I believe we may need it.”
“I know little of firearms. My father has an antique shotgun but he’s never let me touch it. Some of his body guards carry pistols though.”
“You’ll love it. I’ll start you on the Beretta 9mm or maybe a Glock. Then an AR 15, a good beginner gun, I think.”
“I don’t know any of those, but I will take your word for it. I fear we may need a firearm before this is through.”
“I’ll take care of that end.”
“I have no doubt.”
After class he hurried over to the theater. A sign said “Play practice, 4:00. Do not disturb.”
At least he knew what time to be here.
He texted Beth and told her to find Gretchen and tell her. They needed to get Gretchen a cell phone or something. Some old fashioned ways were simply lame. Communication was pretty handy.
He paid little attention through his classes. All he could think about were those idiots that were about to summon an ancient, evil god. He didn’t know if they were doing it on purpose or out of ignorance, but either way it had to be stopped.
David caught up with Beth and Gretchen in the cafeteria. He usually avoided the overcrowded and over priced cafeteria, but he had to talk to them.
“They meet at four. What’s our plan?” David said as he sat down at their table in the corner.
He noticed how the two girls really didn’t fit in with anyone else there. The other students were dressed in school hoodies or workout jackets or dressed like…normal people. Even if these two weren’t dressed differently, they’d still stand out somehow.
He considered that a good thing.
“Plan? I thought that was your territory,” Beth said.
“I don’t know what we’re up against,” he said.
“They’re students. Unless they read the play, there’s nothing to worry about,” Gretchen said.
“Meet me at the theater at 3:45,” he said.
“We’ll stop them before they go inside,” Beth said.
“If they do this out of ignorance, they can perhaps be reasoned with, but…” Gretchen started to say.
“But, what?” David asked.
“But one of them must have read the second act by now. One of them surely knows what awaits them if they try to perform it.”
“So, one of them won’t be able to be reasoned with. The question is: do the others realize the danger?” David said.
“I don’t know. I hope they do this out of ignorance,” Gretchen said.
“But if not, we have to be prepared to stop them,” Beth said.
“I’m prepared,” David said.
“So am I,” Beth said.
“I am as well,” Gretchen said.
David arrived at the theater at 3:45 on the dot and found Beth and Gretchen waiting for him.
“You all ready for this?” He asked.
“We must be,” Gretchen said.
“Alright, I thought of a plan…”
He stopped because he felt something. He felt something very strange and yet familiar.
Gretchen looked up and toward the theater. Whatever it was, she felt it as well.
“What is that?” He asked.
There was something in the air, like it was vibrating, like too much static electricity was nearby.
“I feel it too, like I want to be sick,” Beth said.
The sky seemed to darken though the sun shone as brightly as it had before.
“I do not seem to recall that door being there before,” Gretchen said.
She pointed to a stone arch with a wooden door on the wall of the theater. It definitely hadn’t been there before.
The out of place stone archway with the dark, oak doors had strange, ancient looking writing along the edges of the arch. The words didn’t seem like any natural language he had seen before. It was as if he could attach some kind of malevolence to the writing, almost like the harsh letters wanted to writhe and tear themselves free of the door frame.
Beth took a step towards it.
“I wonder what’s in there,” Beth said.
“Don’t open that door!” Gretchen said with a quivering voice.
“What’s through there?” David asked.
“I don’t know but I know we should not wish to find out,” Gretchen said.
“What’s going on?” Beth asked.
“It’s the play! They’re reading it!” Gretchen said. “The world is being altered! We’re too late!”