Originally published by F. Tennyson Neely in 1895.
Also published online by The Project Gutenberg
Title: The King in Yellow Author: Robert W. Chambers

Banner Artwork above by Shasta Lawton.
Illustration for THE PROPHET'S PARADISE by Eric York,
taken from the collection Carcosa Tenement Blues by Edward Morris

Monday, September 12, 2011


by Adam Bolivar

- I -


I am Jack. Jack the Giant-Killer. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick. Jack and Jill went up the hill. Little Jack Horner sat in a corner. You get the idea. There have been Jacks all throughout time. We protect the waking world from the Things Outside, slimy creepy things with tentacles that ruled the earth before humans. They’re locked away in another dimension now. Trust me, you don’t want to know much about them.

I had an adventure in the Dreamlands and won a bag of gold coins, which I brought back to the waking world. It’s a lot harder to spend gold coins than you might think. Everyone wants to know where you got them. Fortunately, Gretchen’s uncle works in the jewelry business and helped me sell them, no questions asked. Gretchen is my girlfriend and she’s pretty cool. With the money I made from selling the gold coins, I bought a house on a hill in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Gretchen stayed there some of the time. She also had an apartment in Mousehole, Massachusetts, where she was going to university.

Most of the time, I was alone in my house. That suited me just fine. I was a loner by nature. I spent most of my days wandering up and down the creaking stair, or sitting hunched over an Underwood typewriter. A-ratta-tat-tat. Ratta-tat-tattick.

It was only when night was ascendant and the moon reigned over the sky that I stole from my solitary endeavors and made my way to the bottom of the hill. There the James Joyce pub awaited me like an eager lover. One Friday night, as I perched like a crow on my stool draining a pint of Guinness to the dregs, a second crow sat down next to me and offered to buy me another.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said in a silky, sonorous voice. “Pitt is my name. Sammy Pitt.” He was an older man, with slicked-back black hair. He wore a perfectly tailored black suit with a crisp white shirt and a scarlet tie, neatly topped by an immaculate black overcoat and black fedora. Something about him made me shudder, but I didn’t turn down the beer he bought me. He bought one for himself too. We clinked glasses.

“I’m Jack,” I said. I tipped my battered porkpie. Pitt smiled sardonically.

“I know who you are. I’ve come here on business, Jack, regarding a certain black jewel.”

I almost dropped my pint glass. “I thought that was done with. I gave it to the Shadow King. Mother Goose is taking on my debt in return for seven years of bondage.”

Saying it out loud made it sound pretty absurd, not to mention kinky. I suppressed a smile at the thought of being chained up by an old lady dressed in a cape and a conical hat, who whipped me while reciting “Little Miss Muffet.”

“I’m afraid my client doesn’t view it that way.”

“Your client?”

“Lady Oleandra, the Duchess of the Small Hours. I believe you have met.”

I remembered the deal I had struck with her. In return for opening the dream gate to begin my quest for the White Cup, I agreed to give her the black jewel. I thought I was free of that deal, but it seemed not.

Sammy Pitt produced a wooden box from the pocket of his overcoat and handed it to me. “Take this and perform the ritual at midnight. Lady Oleandra would have words with you.”

I looked down at the box and saw the symbol of a lotus flower carved into the top. When I looked up, Pitt was gone. I glanced at the clock. It was a quarter to twelve. There was about a quarter of a glass of Guinness left. I drained it in one go, and left the bar, taking my strange gift with me.

The wind whipped up whirligigs of freshly fallen flower petals as I made my way up the hill to the crooked house where I lived. I locked the door behind me, and flopped down on my bed, opening the box with the lotus flower carved in it. Inside, on a bed of blood-red velvet, was a glass syringe and a bottle filled with a mercurial black ink. Hypnosium. I was being summoned.

I should have closed the box. Buried it in the ground. Thrown it in the pond. Tossed it in the fire. Anything but what I did. I started the Ritual.

I tapped out a drop of the black ink into a silver spoon and sucked it up into the needle-sharp tip of the syringe. Rolling back my sleeve, I teased out a sturdy blue leviathan of a vein. It throbbed mightily, aching to be harpooned like a whale. And I did it. I plunged the needle into the vein and thrust that silky black hypnosium into my bloodstream. The effect was instantaneous. I lay back into my pillow and nodded for seconds...minutes...hours...

Finally, I rose from my torpor, a dream Jack now, and wandered into the hall.

This is the mahogany hall
that led to the stairs
in the house that Jack built.

This is the nook under the stairs
at the end of the mahogany hall
in the house that Jack built.

This is the closet
across from the nook under the stairs
at the end of the mahogany hall
in the house that Jack built.

This is the dream door
inside the closet
across from the nook under the stairs
at the end of the mahogany hall
in the house that Jack built

This is the silver key
that opens the dream door
inside the closet
across the nook under the stairs
at the end of the mahogany hall
in the house that Jack built.

I turned the silver key in the dream door—click—and the dream door opened.

I walked across the threshold into a chamber filled with gauzy red silk and cold black stone. A milk-skinned woman with hair as white as ivory awaited me there.

It was Oleandra, the Duchess of the Small Hours.

“You have broken our bargain, Jack,” she said, her thin white lips pursing in a pout. “I am most displeased.”

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