“How rude,” said a voice behind the couch, the mockery in its tone so strong it you could feel it, without even looking at the speaker. “I do NOT smell, thank you very much.”
Maria jumped in shock and spun around to look at who had spoken, wide eyed and pale.
“What the fuck!?” She shouted, caught off-guard by our intruder. I turned more slowly, but with no less alarm or dread. The voice was familiar.
Slouching in a corner of the room, behind the couch and next to the entrance of the house, was Suzy, her arms crossed as she leaned against the wall. Her smile was wide as always, and just off enough you could tell it was not simple amusement that hid behind that mask.
“Excuse me, what the fuck are you doing in my house?!” Maria shouted again, still aghast at what was going on, and horror etched on her face. We were both naked and vulnerable, and had been enjoying a tender moment just a few seconds ago. That tenderness had now shattered, like brittle glass, with Suzy’s interruption.
“Who… What the fuck are you?” Maria swore again, sounding even more afraid than last time.
Suzy looked back at her with disdain, and I felt my heart seize up in panic. I grabbed Maria’s hand and pulled at it, trying to imagine an explanation, an excuse, the right combination of words that would let everyone leave this room unharmed.
“She’s, uh… She’s with me,” I muttered.
Maria looked back at me again, and I winced at her expression. Hurt, angry and confused.
“You know her?” She hissed.
I nodded, but that seemed to only increase her anger.
“Well, tell me who she is and why the fuck she’s here and do it fast!” She practically shouted, her voice trembling as she took a step back and grabbed at a small metal ornament on the table nearby, gripping it tightly. Her irises in her eyes were surrounded by white as she looked back at me. She was terrified.
“I have many names,” replied Suzy before I could get a word edgewise. “But your people know me as the Feaster From Afar, the King in Yellow, and also that one other name you do your best to avoid using, afraid that it might call me… Hastur.” She purred the last name, almost savoring it.
Poor Maria, naked and clutching at her metal ornament, froze when she heard it, only her eyes swiveling to look at the woman dressed all in yellow, with a maniacal grin that could devour worlds.
“But please, call me Suzy,” said the King in Yellow. “No need for formalities, right Cody?”
“You’re nuts! Completely crazy!” Said the woman I had just spent such a deep and intimate moment, as she took another step away from both me and Suzy, her eyes darting between the two of us and she whimpered. “Two lunatics from the yellow cult… Shit!”
“Oh man… Why does nobody believe me when I tell them who I am?” Complained Suzy, rolling her eyes. She leaned away from the wall she was resting and took a step forward, a menacing glint in her eyes.
“Now, Suzy,” I warned. “Don’t-”
But it was for naught. She transformed as she took another step, into a tall yellow figure, cowled and covered in sickly yellow rags that released a sweet smell of sandalwood and rotting flesh. The edges of the creature’s clothes twitched and twisted in odd directions, as if pulled by hidden and competing gusts of winds and behind the cowl and the yellow rags, half-hidden…
Was a universe.
A wrong description. Impossible. But it was as best I could describe it. An entire universe of living beings, people and aliens and bacteria and innumerable, immeasurable other forms of life. A planet’s worth. A universe’s worth. All laughing and crying and living and dying and feeding and fucking and vomiting and dividing and combining and re-joining all at once. They all spoke, in unnisson:
“I am HasTur,” spoke the creature. “The FeasTer from Afar, The UnmeNtionable One, blah blah blah. Seriously, you miGht as well call me Suzy.”
I gazed, unable to look away despite the terrible vistas of millions and millions of minds and memories that poured out of that yellow cape. If each mind was as a drop of water, the King in Yellow was an ocean, pouring into my eyes and ears.
“So, is thiS enough?” Asked the cowled figure, putting its hands on its hips while the voices and face and minds poured and spilled from the gaps between its cloth. “Do I need to dO any more special effEcts? A miRacle or two? Or are you convinCed now, MARIA MCINTOSH, MOTHER OF PETER AND SANDRA MCINTOSH?”
The silence that followed was dreadful and I tore myself away from the King in Yellow to look at Maria, and saw something even more horrifying.
She was crying, no elegant simpering or delicate tears, her cheeks were wet and snot ran down her nose as her face crumpled in horrified despair, her mouth wide open. Yet no sound came from her except a hoarse wheeze, as she openly sobbed and stared back at the creature, frozen.
Then, in an instant, she fell to her knees and bent her body in terrified supplication, her forehead touching the floor.
“Sorry! Oh Dag… Guh. Sorry. So sorry. Oh perfect Hastur. Mighty Hastur. I am nothing. Please kill me. Please torture me. Please do anything to me. It was all me, I deserve it. I am nothing before you. I’m sorry. So sorry,” she whispered, non stop, spitting apologies and worshipping and begging in an incoherent torrent of words, squeezed in between sobs and terrified whimpering.
Then Maria, in a moment of immense and pure willpower, looked up into that gaping maelstrom of memories and begged, pleading in a hoarse whisper. “Just… Please… Don’t hurt my children?”
Hastur stared back, but there was no expression to read in that madness. No meaning to be gleamed behind that cowl.
“You ask mE for mercy after sleeping with my man when I wAsn’t looking?” Asked the figure in its legion voice. “Back off, biTch! He’s miNe!”
The look that Maria gave me, after hearing that, was one of dawning horror. Of the light of hope snuffing out and dying in agony, alone in the darkness.
“Hah ha hA ha! Just kidDing!” Laughed the King in Yellow, suddenly clutching its middle, bending and writhing in half in a bizarre imitation of human emoting.. “I’m just messing with yOu. He’s not rEally my boyfriend. So exchange all the fluids yOu like, I don’t carE.”
“Enough!” I burst out, mustering my strength to return the gaze of that horrifying creature. But when it turned its cowled head toward me I felt my strength failing, and looked down at the ground, blinking away tears.
“Enough...” I muttered. “You don’t need to torture her. It’s me you want.”
“Aww, but I jUst wanted to join the fun!,” said the Abomination in Yellow, waving its arms as they wriggled like boneless tentacles with hands on each end. “We could have a rOmantic triangle! Hide stuff from each othEr, have dramatic confronTations, have sex with one another in sEcret, or with masks so we wouldn’t know who tHe other was...”
“Shut up. Leave. Now.” I still averted my eyes, which only make me look more weak and powerless. But my voice did not waver, as I closed my hands into fists, ready for the consequences.
“MeeeEeh, it was worth a try,” said Hastur, now completely still as its infinite faces turned toward me. “Fine. I’ll leave aFter you tell me what’s your final dEcision, on what I asked earlier.”
“Final decision?” I asked, confused as I ran through what had happened that day…
“Your deciSIon on whether I should wIPe out the ChildrEn of Dagon Or nOT?” Asked the King in Yellow, and despite its legion voice, I could almost detect a distorted echo of mockery as he continued, “Ya know. To gEnOcide or not to gEnOcide? Pretty big questiOn, I would think, but I guEss not if it Slipped your mind so eaSily.”
Maria gasped and her head darted up, looking at me with her bulging eyes red with tears, horrified, yet pleading, hoping against all hope…
“Of course not!” I spat out immediately. “Don’t you dare touch them!”
“SuCh a quick rEply! Ha hA haH!” laughed the eldritch abomination. “So different from earlier, when I askEd you that question, and you had to cOnsider! What made yOu chAnge your mind so quiCkly, I wonDer?”
Hastur turned back towards Maria, who whimpered and hid her face behind her hands, trembling so much that, had she been upright, would not have been able to stand.
“Must hAve been somE Killer sex,” commented Hastur, sniggering, chuckling, buzzing and clicking madly with its endless, echoing voice.
“You got your answer, so now you can go,” I replied, trying to keep my voice from wavering. It took effort.
“AlRight, alRight, I’ll leave you tWO lovebirds alone. EnjOy” said the creature, unfolding a mysterious object from within the folds of its cloth. Then the object’s screen turned on and I realized it was a smartphone. “You have mY numBer. Call me wheN you want to go back to saving humAnity again. You know… What wE were doing before. No hurRy, take yoUr time. It’s not liKe it’s imporTant or anything.”
Before I could notice, the creature was gone. It was never there. We were now alone, the two of us, naked. Me standing awkwardly while the Innsmouth girl cowered and whimpered pathetically, still lying on the floor.
To say the tender mood from before was gone would be something of an understatement.
After a brief moment of silence, while I stood there and searched for the right words, all Maria did was sob quietly, still slumped on the floor like a wretched ragdoll, naked and small.
“I… I’m sorry about...”
“You knew?” She hissed, barely a whisper. But this stopped her crying as she focused her attention on me. Her enormous eyes moist with tears, but there was more than the abject horror she had shown before. Accusation. Anger.
“Yes, I knew,” was my reply.
She opened her mouth, unable to speak for a moment as too many emotions fought for control. “You KNEW?! You knew that your GOD was... Close? Watching? And…? And…?”
Her face crumpled and she bit her lip hard, trying to suppress her cries. I wanted to comfort her somehow, help her, do anything to erase what had happened in the last ten minutes.
She didn’t look at me, but her tone was low and unmistakably bitter.
“”I’m sorry, Maria…”
“Just go! Just…” She stammered, and her anger melted into confusion and horror once again, torn between how to react. She looked at me and I painfully realized she was scared of what I might do or say. That, more than anything, broke me “Please, please go!” She begged at last, burying her face behind her hands and turning away from me, shaking again as sobs broke through her composure.
I got dressed without saying another word. Her head was still buried in her hands as she cried on the floor when I left, closing the door behind me.
Intellectually, I knew the fate of the world was more important than the feelings of a middle-aged woman - or fish-woman - I didn’t know at this point. The King in Yellow’s words, cruel as they may have been, were accurate. I could not waste time with this when the fate of the world was in balance, even if that very creature was the one responsible for my meandering path as I danced for its amusement.
I wasn’t an idiot. Suzy, or whatever her name she used, was no philanthropist. It was all some sort of joke at my expense, as she toyed with me while still technically helping me towards my goal. I realized that, and yet… I still had to keep going. I had to try and sneak something past her. There had to be a way, and I wouldn’t give up until I found it or died trying.
Calling her and continuing onto the next step was the right thing to do. I couldn’t let Suzy erode my confidence with her mind games, I realized that, intellectually. Logically.
But the truth was that I was bummed out by what had just happened. Feeling restless, I paced without thought until finding myself back at the beach where the party had happened. At this point it was well into the evening, and the atmosphere was different. Families approached the gated area, being let in a few at a time while other young party-goers found themselves being stopped and prevented from going further, which some protested, to no avail. Others craned their necks to see what was going on at the beach, but stages, billboards and concession stands had been placed strategically, concealing what was happening close to the shore.
“Sorry friend. Beach is closed for the night,” warned one of the security guards, a young man with a chiseled body and roguish looks that would look at home in a 19th century pirate of the kind that would make ladies swoon. He smiled politely, but his hand firmly blocked my entry. I was about to turn around when a voice behind him rang out.
“Oh it’s alright, Andy. He’s allowed to come in.”
Andy turned, slightly surprised, to confirm he heard right. Behind him was standing Sarah, the elderly High Priestess of Dagon, with a toothy smile and still sporting her sunglasses, even at night. He nodded at her, then turned back to me, giving way to let me though, despite the protests of another girl who had been denied entry.
“Come now,” she said, grinning, while grabbing hold of my hand. “Walk with me part of the way and tell me all about your night In detail!” She nudged me excitedly at that and gave a smile that was an innuendo all by itself.
“I, um… I had a lot of fun, thank you,” I muttered, being as vague and non detailed as possible.
“Spending the night with Maria, right? Was that fun?” She said, giving a wink.
“You knew…?” I asked, baffled. I expected a creature like Hastur to know my every move, but why did even elderly old women know more about my life than I felt comfortable with? She cackled in response to my bewilderment.
“I heard it from one of my children, who saw you and Maria going together to her home. Good for her, the poor girl,” added the High Priestess, shaking her head. “She’s had a rough time lately. Hope you treated her right.”
My thoughts went back to the woman sobbing while crumpled on the floor, afraid to even look at me.
At this point the of the story, I want to emphasise that the High Priestess looked like a kind old lady that you typically help cross the street, or maybe offer to carry her groceries. She was small, old and halfway through her transformation into a fish-thing, but did not look dangerous in the least. That is my excuse for being completely blindsided when she suddenly pushed me behind one of the stalls and pressed a knife against my throat before I could blink. The old lady’s grip was like steel, and her knife was sharp.
“You didn’t do anything to her, did you?” Interrogated Sarah, her voice a lot more menacing.
“No! I, ah...” The truth briefly came to my mind, but never bothered making its way to my lips. That would NOT end well, no matter how I managed to spin ‘an eldritch god paid her a visit, partially because of me’.
“Hesitating? Things aren’t looking good for you, dearie!” She spat, pressing her knife harder against my windpipe, to the point I felt a drop of blood ooze from a tiny cut and make its way down my neck. “I’ll ask again, did you hurt her?”
“Trust me,” I muttered, after swallowing nervously and feeling the blade press against my adam’s apple. “You really, really don’t want to do this. It’s really, really dangerous.”
“It’s a knife,” commented the High Priestess’ daughter, Gwen, walking from behind a concession stand and looking curiously at us. “It’s supposed to be dangerous.”
“Not dangerous for me,” I clarified, as carefully as possible. “Dangerous for you.”