A new player, an impossible decision, a final confrontation...
Malevolent follows Arkham Investigator Arthur Lester as he unravels the mysterious circumstances that have befallen him. In the Twentieth part of Malevolent the final confrontation is here. Compelled to find out if his daughter is in the Dreamlands, Arthur and the Entity head within the walls of an unknown City in hopes of finding her. Here they will encounter a truly unexpected truth as well as gain the tools to confront the King in Yellow once and for all... If you are enjoying this Podcast, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter to receive all Chapters as they are completed as well as the choices that you, the listener, get to make. Find out more here: https://www.patreon.com/TheINVICTUSStream
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PART TWENTY - THE KING
Original transcript by Croik and Jack! Reviewed by Tony.
(The door to the city opens. Arthur enters with a huff.)
JOHN:No going back now.
ARTHUR(hoarse): 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:Subtly is not our strength, Arthur.
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(brisk): I am aware, and I’d risk it all.
(He continues to walk.)
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 we’re passing through 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(scoffing): It’s quiet.
JOHN:Very quiet. I don’t know what I expected, but I assumed it would be less …
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!
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(nervous):Something is wrong here. Very wrong.
(Arthur continues to walk, careful footsteps.)
JOHN:What is that?
JOHN:To our left, there’s something on the side of the road.
(Suspenseful strings rise.)
JOHN:It’s a head!
ARTHUR: What! Fuck. What happened here? Something must’ve –
JOHN:Let’s just move.
(Arthur starts to walk again - this time, it sounds like he’s stepping in something wet.)
ARTHUR: What am I walking it? It seems – it seems wet?
JOHN(in horror):Oh my god.
JOHN:Arthur, this… there’s carnage everywhere!
JOHN:The pathway before us, it’s… covered in blood. Streaks of it and… the buildings on either side of us are…
ARTHUR(breathing quicker): I-I don’t –
JOHN(growling):Arthur, there are bodies everywhere!
ARTHUR: Oh my god. What happened? H-how did they –
ARTHUR: H-how did they die?
ARTHUR(scared): T-tell me what you see!
JOHN(angry):Give me a fucking second! (Ominous background music.)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. People are gutted in the streets, their torsos removed, as if they’d been dragged across the stone pathway..
ARTHUR(weakly): Okay, okay, okay, stop. I, 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(snapping): Enough! Just, just give me a moment.
(Both of them breathe hard in fear.)
ARTHUR(pained): I can smell the iron in the air.
JOHN:Arthur, we should leave. This is brutality of the likes we’ve never seen. The King –
ARTHUR: The King did this? (A high-pitched noise, like a moan or a creak, in the background.)
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’s breathing is ragged.)
ARTHUR: You know I can’t… n-not –
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… (Arthur gasps in fear.)This is a mass grave.
ARTHUR: Okay, o-okay… let’s… l –
(Very soft piano music, in the background.)
JOHN:Arthur, turn around.
ARTHUR: Do you hear something?
JOHN:No. We need to lea –
(A few more notes. It continues to play sporadically.)
ARTHUR(gasp): There! There it is again.
ARTHUR: Yes! Where is coming from?
(He begins to walk.)
JOHN:Arthur, I’m not sure –
ARTHUR: Sh! (Whispering.)It’s… it’s coming from our right. The right of us. 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 its center.
ARTHUR: The music?
JOHN:Coming from the top. But we –
ARTHUR: Come on.
(He starts to climb the steps.)
JOHN:Wait! There are footprints here: deep red blood stained into the stonework, ascending the stairs towards the center.
ARTHUR: We need to.
(As Arthur climbs the steps, the tune played is recognizable: the music box lullaby.)
ARTHUR: The music?
JOHN(grim):There’s someone here.
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?
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.
JOHN:His feet are bare and stained red, as are his hands. Bloodstains on the keys of the piano.
(The stranger starts to hum, so softly, along with the song.)
ARTHUR: Oh my god.
ARTHUR: Who are you?
(The piano bench creaks.)
STRANGER(jovial): Catchy, isn’t it?
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 deepinto the ear canal – (As if euphoric.)Biting and gnawing at the flesh. They’re near impossible to get out. Enough to drive someone mad! (The piano bench continues to squeak throughout.)
ARTHUR: Who are you?
STRANGER: Who am I? (He cackles.) I’m a friend. (Faux-sincere.)The only friend you have right now, Arthur.
STRANGER(laughing): 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: Sh, John. Or whatever you want to be called. Hastur, King, He Who Is Not To Be Named. (Mocking.)Lord of Carcosa!
STRANGER(suddenly standing, in a purposefully obnoxious grandstander tone): 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…! (A pause. Faux-apologetically.) Not much of a city anymore. (He sucks in air through his teeth.)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 to the other side… (Kayne continues to hop back and forth, going ‘ha-cha-cha-cha-cha’ in a teasing manner.) 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?
STRANGER(mimicking): What? What? What what what? (Serious.)The music box, Arthur.
ARTHUR: Here. (He brings out the music box. Kayne takes it.)
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 is such a poor word. No, you’re not caught, you’ll leave alive, and alone and and and… afraid.
JOHN(cautious):This being is powerful.
STRANGER: Bingo! I am no king. Kings are mortal, they’re weak. Powerful! But by your standards, Arty, not mine. (He laughs.)
STRANGER: Oh my god, I keep forgetting to answer you! What do I want? Well! Mm. Hm, hm. I wanted to meet you, Arthur. Arthur Lester. The man himself, and the voice in his head.
STRANGER(walking to the left): 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. 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?
(The stranger’s voice gets louder, as if he’s gotten closer.)
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.
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. (He cackles.)
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(confused): 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. Come on, let me hear it. First thing that comes to mind. Shoot it out.
(A slow, melancholy song plays.)
ARTHUR: I-I’m not sure. I-I suppose… I suppose I’m special because I am humanity. The best and the worst it has to offer. My stubbornness, my compassion, my mistakes. Sometimes I-I feel compelled to follow a certain path, but… i-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… for it’s that humanity that allowed this fragment of a god to stay within me. To seeall that I could be. So that’s my answer. O-Or at least what the loudest voice in my head seems to think. (He sighs.)
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(Southern accent): By a country mile! Yee-haw! Do you know what a country mile is, boy?
ARTHUR(unamused, sighing): No.
STRANGER(Southern accent): It’s a very, very long way! (He laughs, delighted.)
ARTHUR(unapologetic): I have no answers for you. Sorry.
STRANGER(normal voice): Don’t be. It’s not your fault. (He sighs.)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. (To Arthur.)Okay! Okay.
ARTHUR: So, what now? You said you’d let us go.
STRANGER: Go! Go.
(Arthur turns to leave, and stops.)
ARTHUR: Wait, you… you said. Y-You said you saw my life, y-you saw my daughter, and my-my wife. You-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 – so you could, what? Meet me?
STRANGER: Plus it’s a catchy song, isn’t it?
(He flips open the music box. It plays softly.)
ARTHUR: So. So, what happens next then?
STRANGER: You think I know the future?
(The box shuts.)
ARTHUR: Don’t you?
STRANGER: I mean, I know he wins.
(Ominous piano music starts to rise.)
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(to John): Do you know who this is?
JOHN:I have no idea.
STRANGER: How do you think, Arthur? Come on, divorce yourself from this yella fella and tell me what your heart says.
ARTHUR: I-I don’t know.
STRANGER(cooing): Sure you do! Come on, 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! (Announcer voice.)Arthur the investigator from Arkham or John the loveable curmudgeon who just wants a second chance. Who do you think is going to win? Come on, come on, c-c-come on, no wrong answers.
(Suspenseful music begins to play. The stranger cackles.)
JOHN:It wouldn’t happen! 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(suddenly intense): Of course it’s a choice!That’s, that’s what all of this is for, don’t you get that yet? (Thunder rumbles at a distance.)
ARTHUR: Yes, I’ve made choices. And if I –
STRANGER: No no no no no no no no no. (He takes a deep breath.)It’s not yourchoice, or hischoice.
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 you want and you feel, it’s alllllltrue. So then what?
ARTHUR: So, so then we – we get home and –
STRANGER: Look, I don’t want to make a buzzer sound, ‘cause frankly, John wouldn’t understand, but let’s just say emphatically (Suddenly much louder.) WRONG! (He takes a shaky breath.)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.
(The music box flips open again. An eerie noise comes out of it, as well as an odd twang.)
STRANGER: You know what? Fair point. I didn’t see you coming. Or rather, whatever makes you ... you. So what do I know? (Fabric rustles.)Regardless, I have my popcorn and a front seat. Metaphorically speaking.
STRANGER(mocking): What? Do my ears deceive me?
STRANGER: Help you with what?
ARTHUR: Change the pattern. I-If you think you know what will happen, and you – 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 inhale): No. (He bursts into laughter. John growls in frustration.)
ARTHUR: Big surprise there. I don’t think he could do it anyway.
STRANGER(fake outrage): What! I couldn’t? Well, now, I! (He fake growls.)Now, I have to help you, just to prove, grrrr! Aw, fuck off.
JOHN:Let’s leave. I don’t believe him for a second.
STRANGER(laughing): You know what? I take it back. I amstarting to like you.
ARTHUR(unamused): 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. (He walks forward and hands it back. Eerie whispers rise in the background.) 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.
STRANGER: It’s a bet, darling.
JOHN:I know what a wager is.
STRANGER: Yeah? Not confusing it for a wheelchair?
ARTHUR: What kind of wager?
STRANGER: I like where all of this is heading. (His clothing rustles, as if he’s gesticulating.)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. Alot. 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 electrical crackling, followed by a woosh.)
JOHN:A dagger has appeared in his hands.
STRANGER: Thank you, narrator! Take this. It’s very pretty, trust me. (Arthur sighs.)
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 don’t know. 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. (A fake laugh track in the background.)
ARTHUR: What does that mean?
STRANGER(exasperated): 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. (He lilts into a 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!’ (A fake applause in the background.) Forgive me on the rhyme, it was quick.
ARTHUR: That’s everything.
STRANGER: I know. Anyway. (Fake pomp.)Off with you! It was wonderful to meet you.
ARTHUR: The same… Mr.?
STRANGER: Oh!Good question! Hmm. (Eerie whispers rise.) Let’s go with Kayne.
ARTHUR: Mr. Kayne.
KAYNE: Till next time.
(With a similar electrical woosh, he disappears.)
ARTHUR: Not for good, I’m sure.
(Arthur rustles for the dagger.)
ARTHUR: Why a dagger?
JOHN:He said we’d use it when the time was right.
ARTHUR(frustrated): I hate this cryptic bullshit!
JOHN:Me as well. Put the dagger and the music box away. Let’s leave this place.
ARTHUR: Right. (He gathers his bag and starts to walk.)Huh.
ARTHUR: No. Nothing, he just… did he mention the lighter?
ARTHUR: Yes, 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 begins to walk.)
JOHN:Are you okay?
ARTHUR(weary): I don’t know. Are you?
JOHN:I don’t know.
ARTHUR: I feel like we’ve been turned upside down, u-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.
JOHN:There must be something in that to bring solace.
ARTHUR: Yes, I suppose so. (Grunting, he starts to climb stairs.)
JOHN:We’re at the road again. Turn left.
ARTHUR: Yes. If there’s things he can’t see… if we’re 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?
JOHN:Perhaps. I don’t know. (A melancholy tune starts to play.)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. (To himself.)I am the captain of my soul.
JOHN:The pathway to our right leads back to the front gates of the city.
JOHN:Then, I suppose, as the cana said, we’ll take the path toward the plateau.
ARTHUR(sighing): And there it all ends.
JOHN:Possibly. I don’t know. Neither of us do.
ARTHUR: Right, well. (He pauses.)What if we don’t?
ARTHUR: What if we don’t go? What if we say fuck it?
ARTHUR: I don’t know.
JOHN:Live in the Dreamlands forever?
ARTHUR(end of his rope): 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?
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: Ourend. He said it – the man in black – he said that this would end in one of us walking away unscathed and neither returning home.
JOHN:Arthur. If left and 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 deeper into the city.
ARTHUR: It’s alla choice. He said that.
JOHN:Or is it the illusion of choice, Arthur?
(A pause while piano music continues.)
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? (He sighs.) I’ve never felt so… inconsequential.
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 it is about us making a different choice. 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(lighter): 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. (He starts to walk.)Thank you. (He sighs.)Would it be foolish to dream of home?
JOHN:No more foolish than the concept of a last meal.
ARTHUR(chuckling): 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(laughing and sighing): Anyway, I… I wonder what it looks like back at home. (Melancholy piano music.) I wonder how long we’ve been gone. I wonder what the city looks like now. (He takes a deep breath.) I hope Parker’s family isn’t consumed with trying to find out what happened. I wish them peace.
ARTHUR: I’m just saying. I-I hope they’ve found solace. Whatever that’s worth.
JOHN:The street continues to curve. The buildings 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: Mm. And nothing of interest, carnage aside?
JOHN:The buildings are odd, some quaint, some even borderline habitable.
ARTHUR: Enough to hide out forevermore?
ARTHUR(sighing): Look, I know it’s not feasible. I just –
JOHN:I know. I get it. So what will you do first when you get back home?
ARTHUR: Ugh. (Not unkindly.)I feel like that borders on cruel.
ARTHUR(noise of confusion): 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(laughing): You – 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. (Sighing.) What about you?
JOHN:Me? I don’t know.
ARTHUR: Just answer.
JOHN(curt):I honestly don’t. (A melancholy piano tune.) 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.
JOHN(sighing):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 for 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?
JOHN:Well, if I’m being honest I – ?
(A cry in the distance. It repeats every so often, clearly in pain.)
ARTHUR: What is that?
JOHN:I don’t know. It sounds like an animal.
ARTHUR: It sounds hurt.
JOHN:Leave it. I’m sure it’s just one of Mr. Kayne’s toys.
ARTHUR: It sounds like it’s still alive, though.
ARTHUR: Is it this way?
JOHN:To our right. Towards the gate of the city.
(Suspenseful strings rise. The creature still makes noises of pain.)
ARTHUR: It sounds so close; it might be right before us. Do you see any – ?
JOHN(scared):Lilly! (Arthur starts to run.)Arthur, stop! Here! (As Arthur crouches beside her, John breathes shakily in fear.)
ARTHUR(frantic): What’s happened? What’s wrong?
JOHN:I don’t know!
ARTHUR: How bad?
ARTHUR: How bad?
JOHN:She’s missing a piece of her stomach, Arthur.
ARTHUR: Oh my god. Jesus.
ARTHUR: She must’ve followed us. (A sad piano tune. Lilly continues to whine.)Where is she, is she here? Is this? It’s okay. It’s okay. John? John, are you okay?
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. (Commanding.) Open it!
ARTHUR: Okay, okay, wh – what do we have?
JOHN(frantic):A lighter, the… the bag itself! We could use it to stop the bleeding.
ARTHUR: How much blood is there?
JOHN:A lot, Arthur. Now fucking help me!
ARTHUR(at a loss): I-I-I –
ARTHUR: I want to, I just – What do you want me to do?
(Something metal clatters to the stone floor.)
ARTHUR: What was that? What was – ?
JOHN:The dagger! Where’s the fucking shaving kit!?
ARTHUR: The dagger?
(Lilly continues to whine, softly. The piano continues on, tragic.)
ARTHUR(quoting): “Life is loss.”
ARTHUR: No, John. Daniel. That’s what Daniel said to me.
JOHN:What do you mean? (Distorted in anger.)What the fuck are you talking about?
ARTHUR: This… this dagger! (He picks it up.)When he gave it to us, he said... he said that Daniel told me. He said he told me when to use it.
JOHN(still distorted):No! No, Arthur this is not what he meant!
ARTHUR: He said, “Everyone will face it.”
JOHN(still distorted):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(dark):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? (Voice wavering.)Am I wrong? Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you see a way to save her. (A long pause.) 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 my only options.
ARTHUR: I am sorry, my friend.
JOHN(after a long pause):Okay.
JOHN:We’re not leaving her like this.
ARTHUR: No. I know. (John sighs.)John?
JOHN:I’ll do it.
ARTHUR: No, that’s not –
JOHN(more certain):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.
JOHN:Just… say what I say, okay?
ARTHUR: Sure? Uh.
(Mournful piano music.)
JOHN:You were a good girl, Lilly.
ARTHUR: You were a good girl, Lilly.
JOHN:I’m sorry I failed you.
ARTHUR(wavering): I’m sorry I failed you.
JOHN:I know you can’t hear my voice.
ARTHUR(near tears): God. I know you can’t hear my voice.
JOHN:But I want you to know that you are loved.
ARTHUR(whispering): Fucking… (He cries.) You are loved.
ARTHUR: Goodbye, Faroe.
(John moves the dagger. The animal noises stop. Arthur sobs softly.)
JOHN:Is it an odd feeling?
ARTHUR: Yes. It is.
JOHN(voice thick):Life is loss.
ARTHUR: Life is loss.
JOHN:The plateau awaits.
ARTHUR: It does.
(Arthur climbs to his feet and starts to walk.)
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.
(A long pause as Arthur walks.)
JOHN:There are a set of steps, leading up. A wide, black staircase. I can’t see the end.
ARTHUR: I know.
(He continues to walk.)
ARTHUR: I want to tell you something. And I feel like this might be the last chance.
ARTHUR: When my parents died… and I know he said they killed themselves… I, uh. 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.
(Thoughtful music starts to play as Arthur recites. He walks as he speaks. Eventually, Arthur stops walking, and he starts to cry.)
“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 present 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 and 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 mother’s 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.
And now you’re gone and I can’t explain
the loss the lingers here,
the size of a young boy’s parents, that
he wishes could be near.
And there are nights, where he needs you,
and he still crawls out of bed,
And walks towards your bedroom door,
before recalling that you’re dead.
And I want someone to tell that boy,
to swallow all the 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(sniffing): I, I felt like it was the hardest thing I’d ever have to endure. And somehow that made it easier to overcome. You know, if I could just make it through this, if-if I could just survive this… the rest would be easier. (A pause.)But it wasn’t.
(The sad music starts again.)
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.
(He starts to walk again.)
JOHN:The steps are disappearing into a black void of… nothingness.
ARTHUR: Well? Is it passable?
JOHN:I think so. Be careful, move slowly. (In awe.)Jesus.
ARTHUR: What? Where are we?
JOHN:This is … the plateau. (Eerie piano music rises.)It’s a large circle of dark violet stone. Cracks ripple throughout, as if a pebble were dropped on still water, which froze as it moved out.
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?
(Something moves in the distance.)
(Many footsteps approach. John gasps.)
JOHN:Faceless dancers, heralds of the king. Tall, thin figures that stretch and move like ballerinas, with yellow wisps of cloth.
JOHN:They follow him wherever he goes.
(The dancers start to laugh in the distance – high-pitched, eerie.)
ARTHUR: They sound like they’re getting awfully close.
(A slice cuts through the silence. Arthur is injured, and gasps.)
(Suspenseful music rises.)
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(in recognition):The throne.
ARTHUR: Is this where you would…?
JOHN:No. This is for us.
(Eerie whispers start in the background, unintelligible. A loud foghorn of noise erupts, making Arthur recoil in pain.)
ARTHUR(groaning): God, it’s killing –
JOHN:Just hold on, Arthur!
(Almost digital crackling. The foghorn noise fades away into quiet. Arthur pants in pain. Winds start to blow.)
ARTHUR: It feels like it’s gotten colder as if-
JOHN(deeper):The King is above us: floating down from the sky. His yellow cloak moving slowly and tendril-like billowing behind him as he falls.
(Suspenseful strings rise.)
ARTHUR(calling out, above the wind): 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?
(Eerie whispers that all cut off at once.)
THE KING(sounding similar to John): You know that’s not what I want.
JOHN:You want me.
ARTHUR(defiant): Well, you’re not going to have him.
THE KING: Is that so?
ARTHUR: Not as long as I have anything to say about it.
THE KING: So what are you offering, instead?
ARTHUR: Well, what do you want?
JOHN:Arthur, no! (The sound of rustling fabric muffles him.)Whatever he offers you is a lie, don’t give him –
THE KING: Well, then, let’s talk… without the pesky outsider.
(A quick violin chord introduces a scene transition. Now, it’s as if they’re in the middle of an urban city. Arthur steps forward.)
ARTHUR: Where – ?
THE KING: I’m willing to admit I underestimated you.
ARTHUR: Where are we?
THE KING: You don’t recognize the sound?
THE KING: It’s where we first met, Arthur.
ARTHUR: We? The hotel? The – ?
THE KING: Your office.
ARTHUR: We never met here.
(Arthur starts to walk around.)
THE KING: Oh, but we did! John, as you so lovingly call him –
ARTHUR: By his decision.
THE KING: Sure. (Mysterious piano music starts.)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.
(The King growls like a beast.)
THE KING: You don’t really believe that, do you?
ARTHUR: I do.
(Eerie whispers rise, and vanish.)
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(sharp inhale): Yeah. I hate him for betraying my trust. But not for calling me what I am. (The King growls again.) I am an unfit father.
THE KING(pointed): A murderer, Arthur.
THE KING: You despise me. I can see it in your face. The face of someone not to fuck with, right?
THE KING: And yet, you love him.
ARTHUR: I suppose so.
(A quick flurry of whispers. A melancholy tune plays.)
THE KING: Do you hear yourself? Do you hear how madyou 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 inhaled 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(angry): Of course it does!
THE KING: Just less so than his murderer.
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?
THE KING: So, you agree, John deserves to be punished.
ARTHUR(furious): I … no!
THE KING: Why not?
ARTHUR(passionate): Because I can’t lose another person! (He breathes hard. Whispers linger throughout.)
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(shocked): Unscathed!? I am paying for my mistakes. This? My hand? My eyes? Look at me! I’m weak, and starved, and I have NOTHING.
THE KING: Yes.
ARTHUR(desperate): I have nothing left for me…
THE KING: Yes.
ARTHUR(more desperate): Not a soul to count on!
THE KING: Yes!
(A long pause.)
ARTHUR: Except him.
(The music returns, accompanied by majestic strings.)
THE KING(growling): Fool!He doesn’t care about you! Arthur, you are a sack of meat, a ride, a piece of driftwood to hold onto, otherwise he’ll drown! You are nothing to him! (Eerie whispers briefly swell, then stop.)
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.
(They’re returned back to the plateau and the wind. Arthur gasps.)
JOHN(muffled):Arthur! What did he… (His voice clears.)What did he say?
ARTHUR: It’s alright.
JOHN:You didn’t – ?
ARTHUR: No. I trust you.
(The King growls.)
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.
THE KING: No?
ARTHUR: You don’t know how to –
(As a suspenseful tune rises, Arthur’s bones crunch as they’re broken. He screams out in pain.)
(Arthur makes noises of 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 loud breaking of bones. Arthur screams in pain again.)
JOHN:ARTHUR! (To the King.)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!
THE KING: What?
(The violins cut out.)
JOHN:What if I decide to leave this body? What happens then?
ARTHUR(in agony): No! No, John! No – !
THE KING: You? Want to leave now?
ARTHUR(yelling, amidst gasps of pain): John, no!
THE KING: Why the change in heart?
JOHN:You know why. Now will you do it?
(The King growls again. Another crunch of bone, and Arthur shouts in pain. Blood trickles on the floor.)
(Eerie piano music plays.)
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(agonized): 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 mockingly.)
ARTHUR: John, no! Please!
JOHN(intent):It’s the only way, Arthur. You know that.
THE KING: Deal.
THE KING: Now come home.
(Arthur starts rifling through his 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 –
JOHN: You can’t.
THE KING: You cannot defeat me, Arthur Lester.
ARTHUR(sobbing): I … I can’t defeat you.
(Arthur opens the music box. The lullaby plays again, and he closes it. It seems to flow into more hopeful piano piece.)
ARTHUR (more confident): But I don’t have to let you win.
THE KING: What?
(He picks up the dagger.)
ARTHUR: That’s… that’s what Daniel told me. John, it … it wasn’t that life is loss. He said – he said, “You cannot defeat it, but you don’t have to let it win.”
ARTHUR: I know what this dagger is for.
ARTHUR: Goodbye, John.
(Arthur slashes himself across the throat. Blood trickles out.)
THE KING: No!
JOHN(to the King):Save him!
THE KING: Leave him and come to me!
JOHN:Save him first!
THE KING: No!
(John groans. The King starts to laugh as Arthur chokes on his own blood.)
THE KING: Hm, seems like you just missed your jugular. But a promise is a promise. Good luck making it home.
(A woosh, and the sound of bitter wind.)
THE KING: Think warm thoughts.
(Arthur is tossed through a portal. He lands in snow, rolling down a hillside. Wind rushes all around.)
(The sound of blood trickling and howling wind fades to silence.)