Feb. 25, 2022

Part 20: The King

THE KING


Door opens. Footsteps.

John: No going back now.

Arthur: [hoarse from crying] I couldn’t if I wanted to. Not until my mind is clear.

John: She may not be here. We need to be prepared to leave if that is the case, especially if we want to remain out of the pits.

Arthur: We’ll stay quiet, ask minimal questions, maybe. Where...Where are we?

John: It’s a black stone path upward — there’s a small archway. I… I can’t see the city yet.

Arthur: Right. Hopefully it’s... Look, we’ll be covert.

John: Covert?

Arthur: Yes… ?

John: Subtly is not our strength.

Arthur: We did it before, at the hotel. We can… we’ll manage.

John: I just want you to be aware of what you’re risking.

Arthur: [Curtly] I am aware, and I’d risk it all.

Footsteps.

John: We’re nearly at the top. We’ll have to try to blend in. I can see a few buildings; it seems like the city itself is walled. The archway acts as a sort of gateway toward the doors we entered through. Odd that they were shut.

Arthur: To keep out unwanted visitors, I suppose.

John: Should’ve locked it.

Arthur scoffs

Arthur: It’s quiet.

John: Very quiet. I don’t know what I expected, but I assumed it would be less…

Arthur: Vacant?

John: That’s exactly the feeling. The buildings that surround us are tall, but some are… many are damaged… to the point of nearly being ruins.

Arthur: Is this city even occupied?

John: I think so. The buildings that surround, their odd architecture aside, seem to have life in them, or at least recently did. A few flickering lights, and… oh!

Arthur: What?

John: There are a few buildings here completely destroyed.  I see now some of the towers deeper in the city are also demolished.

Arthur: But no sign of people?

John: Something is wrong here. Very wrong.

Arthur: Yeah…

John: Move slowly.

Arthur: Right.

Footsteps

John: What is that?

Arthur: What?

John: To our left, there’s something on the side of the road.

Eerie violins play

Arthur: Okay.

Footsteps.

John: Jesus Christ!

Arthur: What?

John: It’s a head!

Arthur: What! Fuck. What happened here? Something must’ve…

John: Let’s just move.

Footsteps become wet

Arthur: What am I walking it? It seems…it seems wet?

John: Oh my god.

Arthur: What?

John: Arthur... This… there’s carnage everywhere!

Arthur: What!?

John: The pathway before us, it’s… covered in blood – streaks of it and… the buildings on either side of us are…

Arthur: I-I don’t...

John: [Urgently] Arthur, there are bodies everywhere!

Arthur: Oh my god… What happened? H-wow did they…?

John: Ohh…

Arthur: How did they die?

John: Jesus…

Arthur:  T-Tell me what you see!

John: Give me a fucking second!

Violins swell into eerie background music

John: Something has torn the limbs off a corpse before us and thrown against the side of this building. There are heads skewered on what looks to be lampposts. Oeople are gutted in the streets, their torso’s removed, as if they’d been dragged across the stone pathway..

Arthur: Okay, okay, okay, stop… I feel dizzy...

John: Everyone is around us… as if they were trying to escape. The wall of the building next to us has fallen onto a group; their… their heads have broken open before them…

Arthur: Enough! Just just give me a moment.

Both breathing hard

Arthur: I can smell the iron in the air.

John: Arthur, we should leave. This is brutality the likes we’ve never seen. The King—

Arthur: The King did this?

John: I… I don’t know.

Arthur: You don’t see anything?

John: I see everything. Arthur, the city is a ruin! The buildings have fallen over. The black, almost organic looking material that they were made with litters the walkways. Viscera paints the sidewalk as if… as if they’ve been played with.

Arthur: My god.

John: The main street is before us. It’s made of what looks like black, hardened dirt, packed by a thousand foot falls...

Arthur breathing heavily

John: Let’s leave!

Arthur: You know I can’t… not until…

John: Arthur! Everything in this city is dead. They’ve been slaughtered, and recently by the looks of it. The trader—

Arthur: You think he…?

John: No, no, this was… I don’t know how to explain it, Arthur, other than whatever attacked this city – whatever destroyed these towers and buildings, it’s… it’s not… This is a mass grave.

Arthur: [Panicked breathing] Okay, o-okay… let’s…

Distant piano music

John: Arthur, turn around.

Arthur: Wait.

John: What?

Arthur: Do you hear something?

Silence

John: No. We need to lea—

Distant piano music

Arthur: There!  There it is again.

John: A piano?

Arthur: Yes! Where is coming from?

Footsteps

John: Arthur, I’m not sure—

Arthur: Shhhh.

Piano starts up haltingly

John: Arthur!

Arthur: Shhh! It’s…it’s coming from our right. What is it — where are we? 

John: I’m not sure. It looks like… a destroyed amphitheater, much like the one back on earth we uncovered. Steps lead up to it’s center.

Arthur: The music?

John: Coming from the top. But we—

Arthur: Come on.

Arthur climbs the steps

John: Wait! There are footprints here… deep red blood stained into the stonework, ascending the stairs towards the center.

Arthur: Faster.

John: Arthur!

Arthur: We need to.

John: Arthur!

Climbing steps. The song being played is the same lullaby that played on the music box.

Arthur: The music?

John: There’s someone here.

Arthur: Where?

John: They’re sitting in the center of the amphitheater, surrounded by an empty audience. They sit at the piano; their back is to us. Debris, rubble, littering the floor and seats that surround them. They look… more or less unscathed.

Arthur: The King?

John: No.

Arthur: No? But they’re… they’re playing the song…?

John: It’s a man — he’s wearing a suit. Like you had, but… all black.

Arthur: Black?

John: His feet are bare and stained red, as are his hands, — bloodstains on the keys of the piano.

Arthur: Oh my god.

The stranger hums along with his playing

John: Arthur!

Arthur: Who are you?

Stranger continues humming. The piano bench creaks.

Stranger: Catchy, isn’t it?

Arthur: What?

Stranger: Catchy — it’s a catchy song.

John: His back is to us.

Stranger: It sticks in your head, drives itself in — ear worms, some people call them. Though, as someone who’s had firsthand experience with real ear worms, it’s an unfair name. Ear worms writhe, they dig deep into the ear canal, biting and gnawing at the flesh — they’re near impossible to get out. Enough to drive someone mad!

Arthur: Who are you?

Stranger: Who am I? [Laughs maniacally] I’m a friend. The only friend you have right now, Arthur.

Arthur: What?

Stranger: [Laughs] I’m kidding. Do you see what I did there? That’s what… ah, never mind.

Arthur: What do you want?

Stranger: That’s the question, isn’t it? That’s more important than who I am! Why didn’t you lead with that?

John: He’s turned around. I don’t recognize him, Arthur. I don’t recognize this presence… He’s not human. He’s—

Stranger: Shhhhhh, John. Or whatever you want to be called. Hastur, King, He who is not to be named, [mockingly] Lord of Carcosa!

John: What?

Stranger: [in an announcer voice] Hark! Comes the yellow King! Regaled in a gown of yellow. He stands twice as tall as any man! Majestic, he glides over the ground to take his throne in lost Carcosa, for he is the king that was and shall be…!

Stranger: Not much of a city anymore. [Winces audibly] Sorry.

Arthur: What do you want?

Stranger: Sorry! You asked that already, didn’t you! Oh god, I’m terrible!

John: He’s walking toward us, taking wide steps over a headless corpse. He’s stepping to the side, a…and now back and to the other side… [hopping footsteps - Stranger teasing] He’s stepping sideways, a-and back again—

Stranger: God, you just tell him everything don’t you?

Arthur: Why are you doing this? Why did you—

Stranger: So many questions; who am I, why am I here, what… blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Where’s the box?

Arthur: What?

Stranger: [mockingly] What? What? What what what? The music box, Arthur.

Arthur: Here…

Sound of the music box shifting

Stranger: Oh, damn. Sorry.

John: The blood on his hands is all over the box.

Stranger: Sorry about the mess. I got bored waiting.

Arthur: Why do you want it?

Stranger: Want it? I have it. I have hundreds of them. It was a lure, my love.

Arthur: A lure?

Stranger: Fish Arthur, now caught. Caught – such a poor word, no, you’re not caught, you’ll leave alive, and alone and and and… afraid.

John: This being is powerful.

Stranger: Bingo! I am no king. Kings are mortal, they’re weak. Powerful! But by your standards, Arty, but not mine. [Laughs]

Arthur: Alright?

Stranger: Oh my god, I keep forgetting to answer you!. What do I want well...hmm,  hmm, hmm. I wanted to meet you, Arthur. Arthur Lester. The man himself, and the voice in his head.

Arthur: Why?

Stranger: Why? Why… Because you’ve started such a kerfuffle. The better half of your better half in there is tearing up the worlds to find a way to break you, to become whole again.

Arthur: And you’re going to help him?

Stranger: God, no. No, no no no no no. I wanna see how this little song plays out. I don’t have a dog in this fight. Whether or not Hastur gets his heart back — irrelevant to me. I just wanted to know what the deal was.

Arthur: The deal?

Stranger: What is so special about you? I checked. I watched your life unfold, Arty. I went back to see…  well, I watched you grow,  you graduate, you fall in love! Or…like – let’s call it like. I watched your parents kill themselves, I watched your wife die, your child drown — boy you had a lot of death around you.

Arthur: And?

Stranger: And I still don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t see why you managed to survive.

Arthur: The Dreamlands?

Stranger: The ritual! Anyone else, and believe me I’ve checked the math – through trial and tribulation (though not my own)  anyone who would’ve opened that book and taken what you took from Hastur would’ve died. They all die! Pop like a ripe cherry. [Laughs]

Arthur: So…?

Stranger: So what’s so special about the little boy from Arkham that made it so? What’s so strong about you that I can’t figure out?

Arthur: I don’t know.

Stranger: But... you do. You have to, cause if I don’t that only leaves one other person. So we’ve both walked a mile in your shoes, kiddo, take a wild guess – why are you so different?

Arthur: What do you mean? Why am I…

Stranger: So different. No wrong answers here. C’mon – let me hear it. First thing that comes to mind — shoot it out.

Main theme plays

Arthur: I… I’m not sure I… I suppose… I suppose I’m special because I am humanity. The best and worst it has to offer. My stubbornness, my compassion, my mistakes… Sometimes I… I feel compelled to follow a certain path, but… in the end my humanity is what carves my direction. I don’t give up, I don’t forget, I don’t allow myself a quarter of forgiveness for the things I should not be forgiven for...  For it’s that humanity that allowed this fragment of a god to stay within me. To see all that I could be. So that’s my answer. O-Or at least what the loudest voice in my head seems to think. [Sighs]

Music ends

Stranger: Eh… maybe? Probably? Nah. No. I don’t think so. But maybe, but probably not. Another guess?

Arthur: I have—I have no guesses. You know more than me clearly by a country mile.

Stranger: [in a Southern accent] By a country mile! Yeee haw!  Do you know what a country mile is, boy?

Arthur: [Sigh] No.

Stranger: It’s a very, very long way! [Laughs]

Arthur: [Curtly] I have no answers for you. Sorry.

Stranger: Don’t be. It’s not your fault. [Sigh] Y’know I think I’m starting to like you. Maybe that’s it. Maybe someone likes you and they are just fucking with me, knowing it’ll drive me crazy [aside, to himself] Lillith you bitch… Okay. Okay.

Arthur: So what now? You said you’d let us go.

Stranger: Go, go.

John: Let’s leave.

Arthur starts to leave, stops.

Arthur: Wait, you.. you said. You said you saw my life, you saw my daughter, and my-my wife… You lived my life?

Stranger: Lived is such a primitive word. Let’s just say I understand you very well.

Arthur: Enough to know this music box would bring me here so you could, what? Meet me?

Stranger: Plus it’s a catchy song, isn’t it?

Music box flicks open and starts to play.

Arthur: So… So what happens next?

Stranger: You think I know the future?

Music box flicks shut

Arthur: Don’t you?

Stranger: I mean, I know he wins.

Mysterious piano music plays

Arthur: He wins?

Stranger: Of course. Didn’t you know that?

Arthur: How can he win? How does he win?

Stranger: You both want this body, the two of you… How do you think it plays out?

John: Arthur, don’t play into his game!

Stranger: Shuddup! I wanna hear from the kid.

Arthur: Do you know who this is?

John: I have a feeling.

Stranger: How do you think Arthur, c’mon – divorce yourself from this yella fella and tell me what your heart says.

Arthur: I don’t know.

Stranger: Sure you do! C’mon, look – I’m a fan, I'm a big ol’ fan of you two. Who do you think I want to win?

Arthur: To win? What do you mean, to win?

Stranger: To win! Arthur the investigator from Arkham, or John the loveable curmudgeon who just wants a second chance. Who do you think is going to win? C’mon, c’mon, no wrong answers.

Arthur: John.

John: No!

Eerie violins play

Stranger: [laughs].

John: That’s not true!

Stranger: Of course it’s not true! John’s grown, he’s regretting, he’s a hero now. He’s gonna sacrifice himself for you, obviously.

Arthur: You act as if this is a choice.

Stranger: OF COURSE IT’S A CHOICE. That’s what all of this is for, don’t you get that yet?  

Arthur: Yes, I’ve made choices. And if—

Stranger: No no no no no no no no no. [Deep breath] It’s not your choice, or his choice…

John: I don’t understand.

Stranger: Okay okay... You’re tired, you’re weak, you’re losing it... It’s not a choice, it’s fate. It’s all predestined. Everything you desire and want and feel, it’s allllll true. So then what?

Arthur: So…So then we get home—

Stranger: Look, I don’t want to make a buzzer sound, ‘cause frankly, John wouldn’t understand, but let’s just say emphatically WRONG. He’s waiting for you, boys. It’s true that you have something special, something that even I can’t see, but unless that something is unfathomable power at your fingertips – only one walks away unscathed, and neither of you go home.

Arthur: That can’t be. I won’t believe it.

John: Me neither.

Music box flips open, but it makes an eerie sound and then snaps shut.

Stranger: You know what? Fair point. I didn’t see you coming – or rather whatever makes you... you. So what do I know? Regardless, I have my popcorn and a front seat. Metaphorically speaking.

John: Help us.

Stranger: [Mocking] What? Do my ears deceive me?

John: Help us.

Stranger: Help you with what?

Arthur: Change the pattern. I-If you think you know what will happen, and you’re obviously so intrigued by my out of place nature in its fabric…then help us find a way to survive this.

Stranger: [Deep breath] No. [Laughs]

Arthur: Big surprise there. I don’t think he could it anyway.

Stranger: What! I couldn’t? [growling] Well now I have to help you, just to prove…! Aw, fuck off.

John: Let’s leave. I don’t believe him for a second.

Stranger: [laughs] you know what? I take it back. I am starting to like you.

Arthur: I wish I could say the feeling is mutual, but you’re staining my daughter's music box with blood.

Stranger: Oh! Here. Keep it.

Handing it back.

Stranger: I don’t want to help you cause… I just don’t, to be honest. But I think I wanna put a wager on you.

John: A wager?

Stranger: It’s a bet, darling.

John: I know what a wager is.

Stranger: Yeah? Not confusing it for a wheelchair?

John: What?

Arthur: What kind of wager.

Stranger: I like where all of “this” is heading. I see the two of you trying to separate yourselves and there’s a time and place I can’t quite envision afterward. It’s almost… tantalizing. The prospect of not knowing. I like it. A lot. It’s like a… surprise party. So there is a part of me that wants to see that happen.

Arthur: And that’s by keeping us together, for now.

Stranger: For now… so here.

 A magical woosh sound

John: A dagger has appeared in his hands.

Stranger: Thank youm narrator. Take this. It’s very pretty, trust me.

Arthur: And?

Stranger: And use it when the time is right. Daniel told you.

John: Daniel? Who’s Daniel?

Arthur: You think I’ll know when the time is right?

Stranger: Yes! Probably? I dunno. Look, I often wish I had two voices in my head Instead of, like, seven million? But when all is said and done, you can always flip a coin — two heads and all that.

Arthur: What does that mean?

Stranger: It’s a joke — you’ll get it later. Anyway, keep the dagger along with your bag of goodies. Shame you lost Frank’s picture frame.

Arthur: You—

Stranger: I know everything my friend. [Sing-song] The glass, the stone, the mask, the books, the tooth, the coin, the wallet and hooks, the kit of course to help him shave are all in Arthur's bag today! Forgive me on the rhyme, it was quick.

Arthur: That’s everything.

Stranger: I know. Anyway. Off with you! It was wonderful to meet you.

Arthur: The same… Mr.?

Stranger: Ohhhh good question!  Hmmmm... [strange whispers] Let’s go with... Kayne.

Arthur: Mr. Kayne.

Kayne: Till next time.

He wooshes away

John: He’s gone.

Arthur: Not for good, I’m sure.

The hiss of a dagger drawn

Arthur: Why a dagger?

John: He said we’d use it when the time was right.

Arthur: I hate this cryptic bullshit!

John: Me as well. Put the dagger and the music box away. Let’s leave this place.

Arthur: Right.

Shuffling.

Arthur: Huh...

John: What?

Arthur: Nothing, he just… did he mention the lighter?

John: The lighter?

Arthur: Ye, when he listed all the things we have, I just… I can’t recall if he said the lighter.

John: I don’t know. The steps are to our left.

Arthur: Yeah.

Footsteps.

John: Are you okay?

Arthur: I don’t know. Are you?

John: I don’t know.

Arthur: I feel like we’ve been turned upside down, unsure of which way is up.

John: Yes; I feel it, too. Like something bigger has revealed itself.

Arthur: It has, hasn’t it? Pawns in a game of chess is the overwhelming feeling I’m left with.

John: And yet he said that there’s something about you that he can’t see, or a place he can’t predict.

Arthur: Yeah… 

John: There must be something in that to bring solace.

Arthur: Yes, I suppose so.

Climbing

John: We’re at the road again. Turn left.

Arthur: Yes… if there’s things he can’t see… if we are an anomaly in the writing as it were, there must be some way to change the outcome.

John: The outcome of all this, of what he said…?

Arthur: Yes.

Main theme plays

John: Perhaps. I don’t know. We’re dealing with forces that even I, as the King, have no understanding of. Powerful as I may be, I’m still bound by many rules – unnatural as they may seem.

Arthur: I suppose so. [Whispered to self] I am the captain of my soul.

John: The pathway to our right leads back to the front gates of the city.

Arthur: Right.

John: Then, I suppose as the cana said, we’ll take the path toward the plateau.

Arthur: [Sigh] And there it all ends.

John: Possibly. I don’t know. Neither of us do.

Arthur: Right, well… What if we don’t?

Music fades

John: What?

Arthur: What if we don’t go? What if we say fuck it?

John: Fuck it?

Arthur: Yeah.

John: Then what?

Arthur: I don’t know.

John: Live in the Dreamlands forever?

Arthur: Yeah, maybe. I-I-I don’t know. We could find a way to—

John: You believe the King would just let it all go? Allow us to live here, in his domain rent free?

Piano resumes

Arthur: No, but... Look, if we’re the fracture in the foundation, the thing that Mr. Kayne couldn’t understand, then maybe… maybe we’re meant to break the mold.

John: I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying to what end?

Arthur: Our end. He said it — the man in black said it — he said that this would end in one of us walking away unscathed and neither returning home.

John: Arthur. If left or right are both ends, then does the choice even matter? You’re not giving up by walking this path that’s been laid out before us whether it’s predetermined or not.

Arthur: But we don’t have to! This path, it continues? Within the city? Does it split?

John: Yes, the walkway continues forward into the city.

Arthur: It’s all a choice. He said it.

John: Or is it the illusion of choice, Arthur?

Melancholy piano music

Arthur: I don’t know. I don’t get what this game is anymore. All of this feels so fucking… predetermined. Who am I matched against these literal Gods? [Sigh] I’ve never felt so… inconsequential.

John: Why?

Arthur: Because… it makes all the actions I take, all the meaningful moments feel… insignificant when up against the truth of how this universe is. It's - It’s futile to fight against a current this strong.

John: Maybe you’re right. Maybe making a different choice is enough. [Piano music turns hopeful] Let’s head into the city, deeper.

Arthur: Farther away from where we’re meant to be?

John: Maybe, but you’re right. At least it’s our choice.

Arthur: Yeah. Alright.

John: The path continues forward, curving to the left. It disappears behind a number of buildings as the city grows around it. Shall we?

Arthur: Let’s.

Footsteps.

Arthur: Thank you. [Sigh] Would it be foolish to dream of home?

John: No more foolish than the concept of a last meal.

Arthur: [Laughs] That’s fair. I think I’ve limited myself to dreaming of that reality because it’s just… too far from reach. Even though now it’s practically promised not to be true… a part of me feels stupid for robbing myself of wistful thoughts while we were in the pits.

John: You had to protect your mind. You let your dreams be your escape and left the waking hours for productive thinking.

Arthur: Is that what it was?

John: I suppose so.

Arthur: [Laughs, but then sighs] Anyway I… I wonder what it looks like back at home. [Piano theme plays] I wonder how long we’ve been gone. I wonder what the city looks like now. [Deep breath] I hope Parker’s family isn’t consumed with trying to find out what happened. I wish them peace.

John: Mhm.

Arthur: I’m just saying. I-I hope they’ve found solace. Whatever that’s worth.

John: The street continues to curve. The building sprawling higher now, though we seem to be winding our way towards another gate.

Arthur: We won’t exit — there’s probably plenty of paths that leave the city.

John: Exactly. It seems like we’re on the walk that runs along the outer wall.

Arthur: Mmm. And nothing of interest, carnage aside?

John: The buildings are odd, some quant… some even borderline habitable.

Arthur: Enough to hide out forevermore?

John: Maybe.

Arthur: [Sigh] Look, I know it’s not feasible. I just…

John: I know. I get it. [Piano fades] So what will you do first when you get back home?

Arthur: Ugh... I feel like that borders on cruel.

John: Just answer.

Arthur: [Baffled sigh] Honestly, I can’t tell which is more appealing right now: a warm bed, or a piece of fruit!

John: If your teeth can manage.

Arthur: [Laughs] You are not kidding! I-I don’t know. I think I… I think I miss… I think I just miss the normalcy of it all. The streets, the sounds of people talking, going about their day, no one caring who I am or what I’m doing. I just want to be lost in the sea of the everyday. Let it wash over me. [Sigh] What about you?

John: Me? I don’t know.

Arthur: Just answer.

John: [Testily] I honestly don’t. [Piano resumes] The first moment I had to myself, back in the hospital, I found myself angry. Frustrated at my inability to talk, to interact with things. My role as the King was about driving others mad, about whispering secrets into their ears and watching them take my words to heart – sometimes to the point of gouging out their own ear canal.

Arthur: Jesus.

John: [Sigh] But in that time, I found none of that.

Arthur: No, you… you found your humanity. You found Lilly?

John: It wasn’t just about her, Arthur. She was merely a figurehead through which I learned a truth. She was the first human I had encountered that I didn’t need anything from. The first time I didn’t have the desire, let alone the ability, to enact my will through her. Instead, I found myself depending on her. Depending on her warmth and compassion. Her routines and schedule. I began to hope that she would come back, and in that hope came the simple realization that I was, for the first time since my inception, alone. And it frightened me. The Dark World is a nightmarish, cruel plane, one that haunts my waking thoughts, but it is not empty. Far from it.

Arthur: She made you want more out of your existence. That’s no small feat.

John: So what is the first thing I want to do when I get back home?

Arthur: Yes.

John: Well, if I’m being honest I—

A distant cry

Arthur: What is that? 

Another cry, as from an animal

John: I don’t know. It sounds like an animal.

Crying continues

Arthur: It sounds hurt.

John: Leave it. I’m sure it’s one of Mr. Kayne’s toys.

Arthur: It sounds like it’s still alive, though.

John: Arthur…

Arthur: Is it this way?

John: Arthur!

Arthur: What?

John: To our right. Towards the gate of the city.

Eerie violins play

Arthur: It sounds so close; it might be right before us. Do you see any—?

John: Lilly!

Arthur: What?

John: Lilly!

Lilly groaning in pain

John: Arthur, stop! Here!

Arthur crouches down - John breathing heavily with distress

Arthur: What’s happened? What’s wrong?

John: I don’t know!

Arthur: How bad?

John: She’s hurt.

Arthur: How bad?

John: She’s missing a piece of her stomach, Arthur.

Arthur: Oh my god… Jesus…

John: She’s dying.

Arthur: She must’ve followed us. [Sad piano plays] Where is she, is she here? Is this? It’s okay, it’s okay. John? John are you okay?

John: No.

Arthur: I’m so sorry. 

John: What do we do?

Arthur: What do we…What do… we can’t do anything.

John: There’s a way — something in your bag. OPEN IT.

Arthur: Okay, okay, wh-what do we have?

John: A lighter… the… the bag itself —we could use it to stop the bleeding.

Arthur: [Doubtful] How much blood is there?

John: A lot, Arthur. Now fucking help me!

Arthur: I…I…I…

John: HELP ME!

Arthur: I want to, I just— What do you want me to do?

A metallic clatter

Arthur: What was that? What was—

John: The dagger! Where’s the fucking shaving kit!?

Arthur: The dagger?

John: What?

Lilly cries. The piano changes to a new, tragic melody

Arthur: “Life is loss.”

John: Fuck you!

Arthur: No, John —Daniel. That’s what Daniel said to me.

John: What do you mean? What the fuck are you talking about?

Arthur: This… this dagger! [Arthur picking up the dagger]  When he gave it to us, he said... He said Daniel told me. He said he told me when to use it.

John: NO! No, Arthur this is not what he meant!

Arthur: He said, “Everyone will face it...”  

John: And what the fuck does he know!?

Arthur: He was Bella’s father —Faroe’s Grandfather.

John: I don’t care, Arthur. If you think he—

Arthur: Kayne gave us this, John! This dagger. And he said that… that Daniel knew when to use it. Daniel told me that life is loss. Everyone will face it, and everyone will succumb to it.”

John: So you what? Want to kill her? You want to end her because of something muttered to you years ago?

Arthur: We can’t save her, John. Can we?  Amd I wrong? Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you see a way to save her. [A long pause - the music changes again] We either walk away and let her die slowly, or we accept that life is loss, and we help put an end to her suffering.

John: I won’t accept that those are the only options.

Arthur: I am sorry, my friend. 

John: Okay.

Arthur: Okay?

Lilly cries

John: We’re not leaving her like this.

Arthur: No… I know…

Arthur: John?

John: I’ll do it.

Arthur: No, that’s not—

John: I’ll do it?

Arthur: You’re sure.

John: Yes. I don’t want you missing and prolonging it.

Arthur: I know… fuck… I’m sorry.

John: It’s okay. Just do me a favor.

Arthur: Anything.

John: Just… say what I say, okay?

Arthur: Sure, uh...?

Sad piano music

John: You were a good girl, Lilly.

Arthur: You were a good girl, Lilly.

John: I’m sorry I failed you.

Arthur: I’m sorry I failed you.

John: I know you can’t hear my voice.

Arthur: God… I know you can’t hear my voice.

John: But I want you to know that you are loved.

Arthur: Fucking [Crying] … You are loved.

John: Goodbye, Lilly.

Arthur: Goodbye Faroe…

A slice. Lilly goes quiet while Arthur cries.

John: Is it an odd feeling?

Arthur: What?

John: My tears.

Arthur: Yes…it is.

John: Life is loss.

Arthur: Life is loss.

John: The plateau awaits.

Arthur: It does.

The music fades. Arthur climbs to his feet. Footsteps.

John: We’re leaving the gates of the city.

Arthur: This was a mistake. We shouldn’t have come into the city.

John: We would’ve found her that way regardless.

Arthur: I don’t know.

John: This is all part of it, Arthur. He wants us numb. Defeated.

Arthur: He’s gotten it.

John: There are a set of steps, leading up. A wide, black staircase… I can’t see the end.

Arthur: I know.

Footsteps

Arthur: I want to tell you something. And I feel like this might be the last chance.

John: Please do.

Arthur: When my parents died… and I know he said they killed themselves… I… I had a difficult time understanding why they… why what happened, happened. I found myself hollow for a long time. A-A family friend suggested I found a creative outlet for my feelings. It’s what eventually spawned my love of music, though… I didn’t know how to play then. I was too young. I, ah… I wrote something. A poem of sorts.

Piano music plays

I don’t recall, how we met,
as I was far too young,
I knew you not as you are now,
‘Cause to me you were the sun, 

An always preset warmth and glow,
a light that’s always there,
to wipe the tears from out my eyes,
to brush my matted hair,

And I would lie, if not to say
our relationship was pure,
I am young, a cause of grief,
Of this I am quite sure,

Despite all I’d be remiss,
to say there was no love,
A calmness, and a careful word,
a nudge and not a shove,

There were nights, that I recall
I needed you the most,
I’d crawl from bed, walk to you,
and you would hold me close,

Between the love of both of you,
to ail my sleeping strife,
I’d never felt so safe and yet so
cold in all my life,

I too recall a time when I was
trying to impress,
A goofy boy named Arthur dressed up,
In his mothers best,

Was only dad who laughed with me,
as mother, you withdrew,
but when he joined in dressing up,
you cried with laughter too,

And there was the time, we all did find,
ourselves stuck in the rain,
and mother had her gown near soaked
and dad was much the same

And though we all were miserable
Mother found us a spot of dry
in which we ate a pretend meal
of jelly and sea pie.

Footsteps stop.

And now you’re gone and I can’t explain,
the loss the lingers here,
the size of a young boys parents, that
he wishes could be near.

And there are nights, where he needs you,
and he still crawls out of bed,

Arthur crying.

And walks towards your bedroom door,
before recalling that you’re dead.

And I want someone to tell that boy,
to swallow all that hate,
that nothing that he could’ve said,
would’ve changed his parents’ fate,

And I want that someone to be you,
as I write this, but alas,
This pain will linger with me still,
I pray this too shall pass. 

Arthur crying, starts walking about

Arthur: I felt like it was the hardest thing I’d ever have to endure. Somehow that made it easier to overcome. If I could just make it through this, if I could just survive this… the rest would be easier. But it wasn’t.

Music swells

John: We’re nearing the top.

Arthur: This is it, isn’t it?

John: He’s waiting for us.

Arthur: I know.

John: Arthur. Whatever happens… I’ll never forget you.

Arthur: Me neither, John.

Footsteps continue

John: The steps are disappearing into a black void of… nothingness.

Arthur: Well? Is it passable?

John: I think so. Be careful, move slowly…

They pass through something, into silence.

John: Jesus.

Arthur: What? Where are we?

Eerie piano music

John: This is… the plateau. It’s large circle of dark violet stone. Cracks ripple throughout, as if a pebble were dropped on still water, which froze as it moved out.

Arthur sighs

John: Surrounding us is a vast twilight… red and blue stars dotted against a pitch-black sky.

Arthur: We’re not in the mountain anymore, are we?

John: No.

Distant movement

John: Something’s coming.

Many approaching footsteps

John: [Gasps] Dancers.

Arthur: What?

John: Faceless dancers, heralds of the king. Tall, thin figures that stretch and move like ballerinas, with yellow wisps of cloth.

Arthur: Oh?

John: They follow him wherever he goes.

The dancers laugh

Arthur: They sound like they’re getting awfully close.

John: They are. 

A slice - Arthur shouts in pain as the dancer laughs.

John: Jesus!

Eerie violins play

Arthur: Jesus fucking… She cut me!

John: Just stay away from them.

Arthur: I can’t fucking see them!

John: To the left! Move… straight…

Arthur: What kind of—

John: There.

Arthur: Where?

John: The throne.

Arthur: Is this where you would…?

John: No. This is for us.

Overlapping whispers. A sudden, chaotic blare

Arthur: [Groaning]God, it’s killing—

John: Just hold on, Arthur!

Crackling, wind howling. It gets quieter.

Arthur: It feels like it’s gotten colder.

John: The King is above us… floating down from the sky. His yellow cloak moving slowly and tendril-like billowing behind him as he falls.

VIolin stinger.

Arthur: Well, we’re here. You’ve managed to bring us to your… domain… on our own accord. So… so are you going to kill me, or what?

A rush of whispers that abruptly cut off.

The King: You know that’s not what I want.

John: You want me.

Arthur: You’re not going to have him.

The King: Is that so?

Arthur: Not as long as I have anything to say about it.

John: Arthur, don’t.

The King: So what are you offering, instead?

Arthur: Well what do you want?

John: Arthur, NO! [Suddenly muffled] Whatever he offers you is a lie, don’t give him….

The King: Well then let’s talk… without the pesky outsider.

A rush of sound, transitioning the scene. The wind of the plateau is replaced by sounds of the city.

Arthur: Where…?

The King: I’m willing to admit I underestimated you.

Arthur: Where are we?

The King: You don’t recognize the sound?

Arthur: Vaguely.

The King: It’s where we first met, Arthur.

Arthur: We? The hotel? The…?

The King: Your office.

Arthur: We never met here.

Footsteps - Arthur moving about the office

The King: Oh, but we did! John, as you so lovingly call him—

Arthur: By his decision.

Mysterious piano music

The King: Sure. John is just a piece of me, Arthur. No matter how he presents himself, he is but a fragment of a god trapped inside a mortal shell… waiting for a chance to escape. Desperate for freedom once again.

Arthur: He’s not, not anymore.

A shuddering, growl-like.

The King: You don’t really believe that, do you?

Arthur: I do.

The King: Then maybe I didn’t underestimate you.

Arthur: Maybe.

SFX. Walking.

The King: I’m surprised the amount of sway he’s held over you. A surprising amount of sympathy has been dolled out for him, even after he admitted to killing Emily, and blamed you for killing Faroe.

Arthur: [A sharp breath] Yeah. I hate him for betraying my trust… But not for calling me what I am. I am an unfit father. 

The King: [Heated] A murderer, Arthur.

Arthur: [A short pause] Yeah.

The King: You despise me. I can see it in your face. The face of someone not to fuck with, right?

Arthur: So?

The King: And yet, you love him. 

Piano transitions to main theme

Arthur: I suppose so.

The King: Do you hear yourself? Do you hear how mad you sound?

Arthur: He’s helped me.

The King: After taking everything.

Arthur: I trust him.

The King: He betrayed that trust.

Arthur: He’s my friend!   

The King: So was parker!

Arthur breaths sharply

The King: That’s right, Parker. Remember him? The friend that the entity you call John viciously and cruelly murdered before you, and then blamed it on you. Does Parker’s friendship not matter to you?

Arthur: Of course it does!

The King: Just less so than his murderer.

Arthur: No!

The King: So you’re willing to let your partner’s murderer go free?

Arthur: No, that’s not what—

The King: To let Emily’s murderer go free?

Arthur: No!

The King: So, you agree, John deserves to be PUNISHED.

Arthur: I…NO!

The King: Why not?

Arthur: [Desperately] Because I can’t lose another person!

Arthur breathing hard amidst more whispers. Piano transitions.

The King: Death surrounds you, Arthur. It stalks you like a black shadow that takes everything you touch away. You’re cursed. You’re damaged. A boy playing with matches that kills everyone sleeping in the house, while you escape unscathed.

Arthur: Unscathed?! I am paying for my mistakes. This? This hand? My eyes! Look at me! I’m weak, and starved, and I have NOTHING.

The King: Yes….

Arthur: I have nothing left for me…

The King: Yes…

Arthur: Not a soul to count on!

The King: Yes!

A long pause. The piano fades.

Arthur: Except him.

Music returns, accompanied by strings

The King: FOOL! He doesn’t care about you! Arthur, you are a sack of meat, a ride, a piece of driftwood to hold on to otherwise he’ll drown! YOU ARE NOTHING TO HIM!

Arthur: Maybe. But he’s no longer nothing to me… and I need to trust in something.

The King: You are choosing to let a monster live!

Arthur: I’m choosing to believe that we can change.

The King: You’re choosing wrong.

Woosh of the scene changing back to the echo of the plateau

John: [Muffled] Arthur! What did he… [Now clear] What did he say?

Arthur: It’s alright.

John: You didn’t…?

Arthur: No. I trust you.

John: You…

Arthur: Yes.

Eerie violins return

The King: You’ve turned down the easy option, Arthur. That was a mistake. After I am whole again, I will flay you alive for eons, over and over, allowing time for your skin to heal, before peeling off another layer. You’ll become my personal pet.

Arthur: You can’t separate us, not unless we’re willing to do so.

The King: Yes, and I’m done waiting. I’ve given you plenty of time and now I’m bored. More active means of persuasion are needed and I promise you, in the end, I will get what I need.

Arthur: No.

The King: No?

Arthur: You don’t know how to—

A crunch of breaking bones. Arthur cries out in pain as the violins intensify

John: ARTHUR!

Arthur breathing hard in agony

The King: How’s that feel?

Arthur: Jesus fucking Christ…!

The King: This is my domain, child! Now, that was just the tibia of your right leg. Here’s the femur.

Arthur: Wait, wait, wait—

Another crunch — Arthur shouts

John: ARTHUR!

John: STOP!

The King: Stop? This is just the beginning. I am going to break every bone over and over again, mutilate your fingers and toes while you writhe in agony. Break your teeth and your ribs one at a time as you lay feeling every tug at your innards!

John: Wait!

The King: What?

Violins cut out.

John: What if I decide to leave this body? What happens then?

Arthur: [Pained] No! No, John! No…!

The King: You? Want to leave now?

John: Maybe… yes.

Arthur: John, no!

The King: Why the change of heart?

John: You know why, now will you do it?

The same strange shuddering growl. Another crunch - Arthur shouts in pain. A trickle of blood.

John: STOP.

Eerie piano music

The King: You’ll leave him and come back to me.

John: If you let him be. If you leave him alone and alive. Get him home safely.

The King: Sure.

Arthur: [Pained] John, no! We can’t trust him — you know this!

John: He’ll do it, or I’ll fight him every step of the way.

The King: Is that so?

John: You’ll be at war with yourself internally for all time otherwise.

The King laughs.

Arthur: John, no! Please!

John: It’s the only way, Arthur. You know that.

The King: Deal.

Arthur: No!

The King: Now come home.

Arthur rifles through the bag.

John: Arthur? What are you doing with the dagger?

Arthur: I’m going to kill him!

John: Arthur, it’s futile.

Arthur: Maybe! Maybe the dagger is… I…

The King: You cannot defeat me, Arthur Lester.

John: We can’t.  

Arthur: [Weak] I… I can’t defeat you…

Arthur opens the music box. It plays the last portion of the lullaby. He closes it. New piano theme plays.

Arthur: [Stronger] But I don’t have to let you win.

John: What?

The King: What?

Picks up the dagger

Arthur: That’s… that’s what Daniel told me. John, it wasn’t that life is loss. He said… he said, “You cannot defeat it, but you don’t have to let it win.”

John: Arthur…

Arthur: I know what this dagger is for.

John: Don’t!

Arthur: Goodbye, John.

John: ARTHUR!

A stab.

John: NO!

The King: NO!

John: SAVE HIM!

The King: Leave him and come to me!

John: SAVE HIM FIRST!

The King: NO!

John: Goodbye, Arthur.

A rush of sound. The King growls, then laughs while blood gurgles and Arthur chokes.

The King: Hmmmmm, seems like you just missed your jugular. But a promise is a promise. Good luck making it home.

Magic wooshes.

The King: Think warm thoughts.

Arthur is thrown through a portal - lands in snow, with wind rushing all around.

Arthur: [Choked] John… John…!

The wind howls.

 

 __________________________________________________

Transcribed by the amazing Croik! My absolute appreciation to them for their effort and patience in making this.