The King in Yellow

The book is a thin 9″×9″ black leather bound book with a tarnished copper front cover plate. The book binding itself is black, as evidenced by the spine and back which prominently displays a strange symbol.

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A random page, nearly 2/3 of the way through the book:

Crouching behind the large, weathered boulder, he watched in terror as the figure glided across the landscape. Shrouded in golden robes, startling against the pale purple sky littered with tiny black stars, the figure suddenly halted and turned to scan Its surroundings once more. “Why did It stop? Could It see him?” This he could not tell, but his breath turned to ice at the thought, and he began to choke.

Opening the front cover reveals a page with a strange figure. As the light hits the page, strange symbols, black on black, are revealed in the background behind the figure. Viewing this strange phenomena will cause the reader to mindlessly turn to the first page and begin intently reading.

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It is an anonymously written play, done in Two Acts. The first appears quite bland as you start reading, although very interesting and engaging.

The play is very dream-like, and tells of a man who, while walking down an unfamiliar rarely traveled road, happens upon a thick patch of fog. As he walks on, his surroundings become blurred and unfamiliar, and he exits the fog to find himself in a strange land with hard stone earth, pale purple sky, black stars, and three large moons that travel across the night sky. He turns to make his way back, only to be confronted by a large still lake that blocks his return home – across the lake he sees tall, spired, metal and stone buildings of strange and exotic design.

It begins with a short preamble:

Who is to say: “what is reality and what is dream?” A man claims to know his own reality. He knows the limits of this world, never straying outside its rules – its boundaries. And yet, oft times one is tempted to push against those boundaries, either refusing under his own or some unknown force, and unable to fend against the perverse desire to act in opposition of those limits and boundaries. His behavior can be irrational and extreme, determined only by the depth of his own disjunction with the reality of the dreamer.

The dreamed, too, claims to know his reality. But this reality is more fluid, less limiting, and less-bounded. One is tempted to embrace this freedom of physicality, in both form and time, either unable or unwilling to fend against the enticing desire to act without care in such a limitless and unbounded world. His behavior is quite natural and expected, limited only by the depth of his own understanding of the reality of the dreamed.

And so, surely, it can be seen that the dreamed has more sense of understanding and control of reality than the dreamer. Which begs the question: “which world is truly real – that of the dreamer, as the dreamer believes, or that of the dreamed?”

A verse near the beginning of the book reads:

Along the shore the cloud waves break. The twin suns sink behind the lake. The shadows lengthen in Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise, and strange moons circle through the skies, but stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing, where flap the tatters of the King, must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead, die thou, unsung, as tears unshed shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.

A later passage reads:

I turned away from the strange, clouded and morphing visage, back to face the direction from whence I’d come. But before me no more was the long paved road I had traveled through the fog. Instead, what lay before was a large lake: sickly green in appearance, its surface as still as glass. And beyond, tall buildings, obelisk-like, composed of steel and stone, rose to tremendous heights nearly touching the pale purple skies: thin and tall, piercing the clouds to reach the heavens, yet perilously listing to one side.

Staring at the expanse upon the horizon, my mind felt a twinge of vertigo, and I fell to my knees. And as I stared across the still lake, the images of the buildings reflected upon the waters, I heard a whisper in my ear: “Carcosa,” I heard it say. “It is called Carcosa.” And the name chilled my soul and sent a spasm of shivers throughout my body.

A further passage reads:

I’m not sure how long I walked, my feet falling silently upon the sandy shoreline. Oft times I was tempted to turn back; but to what purpose? It did not seem to matter what distance I’d traveled – the black stars were fixed points in the pale purple sky; the moons were forever frozen above the city landscape; the waters of the lake were unending.

Hours it seemed, or possibly days; it was impossible to tell. But then, as if in a sudden instant, the shoreline changed from a soft sandy beach to a craggy expanse of driftwood, scrub brush, and small boulders. Cruel branches seemed to spring forth, blocking my passage and impaling my ankles. Sharp rocks leapt beneath my feet, slashing through the soles of my shoes and threatening to throw me to the ground. The waters of the lake rippled as I struggled forward, as if laughing at my plight. And when I’d finally had enough of the torment, when my mind had been pushed to brink of hysteria, I exploded with rage. “No more!” I cried. And as I opened my tear filled eyes, I stared in wonder at the endless expanse of barren sandy shoreline that lay about me in all directions.

I stared at the city of tall obelisk-like buildings that lie ominously beyond the still waters of the lake. And I heard once again, a voice, as if trapped inside a small prison, crying out, pleading with me to understand. And yet, I could not comprehend the meaning – only the words that it spoke: “Carcosa,” I heard it say. “It is called Carcosa.” And I shuttered at the sound of it.

The First Act ends with the following passage:

Then, suddenly, I had reached the edge. And as I made my way along the curving banks of the massive lake, I happened upon a small toy, mostly buried in the sand. The pale, flesh colored porcelain shimmered in the moonlight, and my eyes were drawn to the smooth finish which contrasted so sharply against the shale-black coarse sand. I bent to retrieve it, and once again I heard the voice: “It is not your worry. It should be left alone.” But I would not obey.

I do not know if it was a longing to push against the limits of this world – to resist the temptation to stay within the psychological boundaries that mark the borders of sanity. I do not know if it was the simple and natural response to a mystery of the unknown – an unwillingness to succumb to artificial boundaries imposed by fears manifested from insanity. I do not know what force guided my hand to lift the doll from its sandy prison. But as I retrieved the treasure, and lifted it into full view, as I struggled to look away for fear of what I knew would be the outcome of this foolish endeavor, it turned its head to face me, opened its eyes, and uttered a single word that struck terror into my very soul: “Pandemonium”.

The Second Act begins with a short preamble:

And so, as the dreamer becomes the dreamed, so too does the reader become the dreamer. For whosoever commits such time and devotion into the written word, doth also commit his soul into the essence of its instruction. And so, as the dreamed falls deeper into the realm of the unknown, so too does the reader fall deeper into the realm of Carcosa."

A verse near the beginning of the second act reads:

Along the shore the cloud waves break. The twin suns rise behind the lake. The shadows shorten in Carcosa.

Strange is the day where no suns rise, and strange moons light the daytime skies, but stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that tortured souls shall sing, where watchful walks the Yellow King, must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my life, my soul is dead, die thou, unsung, as madness falls and reigns in Lost Carcosa.

A later passage reads:

I should have dropped it; I know it now. I should have buried it once more, neatly beneath the sand from whence I’d retrieved it. But I could not. Instead, I stood mesmerized, staring into the porcelain face that spoke without uttering a sound: “Pandemonium. Bedlam. Turmoil. Pandemonium.” I tried to shut them out, but the words echoed in my head like a great cacophony of voices, each struggling to drown out the other. Louder and louder it grew, and I fell to my knees once more. Until, with my last ounce of strength, I hurled the thing as far as I could, far away and deep into the still green waters of the lake.

The chaos stopped, and I breathed freely once more. That is, until I heard the waters lapping against the shoreline; turned to see the glassy stillness bubbling and rippling, disturbed from below. I stared in wonder at the endless expanse of driftwood, scrub brush, and small boulders that surrounded me. And as I stood frozen, wondering what madness had taken hold of my soul, a figure began to rise from the sickly green waters of the lake.

Tall spikes pierced the surface of the water as the figure glided toward shore. Slowly, a golden crown came into view, which startled me enough to hide behind a nearby boulder. The figure continued to emerge, gliding forward, slowly rising from the lake. It was shrouded in long yellow robes that shed the lake water almost instantly as It arose. I say “It” because the face was fully shrouded, and the mass of rolling yellow fabric obscured all physical features beneath. It appeared man-like, with head, shoulders, and torso; but this is where the comparison ended. For as It stepped upon the sandy shore, to my horror, as It raised Its arms and the folds of the robe pulled back, a dozen or more tentacles reached forward, writhing and squirming about as if sniffing the night air. They were coated with a sickly goo that glistened in the cold moonlight, and as It moved closer still, I could see dozens of such tentacles protruding from the base of the robe, writhing upon the ground, and pulling It forward across the sands.

A sickly stench rolled off of It; an ever-expanding cloud of pale green. I held my breath as the fumes engulfed me. They burned my eyes and invaded my nostrils, and I nearly gagged as I tasted sewage and death. Its presence, and the stench of decay were too much to bear. But then, when I knew I could stand it no longer, It turned and began to move away.

Crouching behind the large, weathered boulder, I watched in terror as the figure glided across the landscape. Shrouded in golden robes, startling against the pale purple sky littered with tiny black stars, the figure suddenly halted and turned to scan Its surroundings once more. “Why did It stop? Could It see me?” This I could not tell, but my breath turned to ice at the thought, and I began to choke.

Further reading:
At this point, it is difficult to remember what was read. Flipping back and re-reading passages brings back recollections, but they quickly fade. While dreaming, random images from the book will suddenly and randomly crop up, which stirs the memory enough to bring back scenes from the second Act. But upon awakening, the details are lost, and even the images themselves fade into obscurity within a matter of seconds.

The King in Yellow

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