The Golden Monarch, by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd

Sylvester found the manuscript at four am on a Sunday, while vomiting between trashcans in an alley. At first, it just looked like a soiled and crumpled square of cardboard, but as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve, the playwright noticed writing on its stained surface. He fished it out and shook it, opening the cracked cover to inspect the title page.

The King in Yellow. A play in two parts.

He’d never heard of it. The copyright page was blank, and the script seemed to bear no author. Sylvester laughed at his luck. The local theater awaited the arrival of his latest script. He could not stall them any longer, and the advance was long-since drunk away. But this, this soggy and stained script, might be his salvation.

He took it back to his apartment and hunched over his laptop, carefully transcribing the miracle manuscript. The words blurred on the page as he read, bleeding from letter-shaped wounds, hiding behind dark constellations of mold and waves of water damage.

The first act was solid, if a touch antiquated, and Sylvester barely gave it a second thought as he updated the lines.

But the second act. The second act pulled him in as a drowning man’s screams draw in seawater. Once he began typing, Sylvester found he could not stop, even when his hands began to cramp and ache. He finished his work as the sun rose, capping it off with a new title page and byline.

The Golden Monarch, by Sylvester Manheim.

As soon as he hit save, Sylvester collapsed from exhaustion and fell into a world of dreams that mirrored the play so closely, he was sure he had slipped right through the pages and into another world. Sylvester did not wake until noon, when the theater director called, demanding the whereabouts of his play. He had been dreading that call for weeks, but now he happily informed the director that both he and the script would be there within the hour.

Sylvester arrived at the theater and stood by as the director read his play. A light slowly grew in the man’s eyes, and sweat bloomed on his forehead, until at last, he set the manuscript down and proclaimed it brilliant.

Sylvester’s life was a blur of dream and rush as the play came together, though he never again read the script once it passed into the director’s hands.

Opening night, word of mouth packed the house. He smiled as the curtain came up, and Cassilda and Camilla entered from opposite ends of the stage, his lines pouring from their perfect mouths, their hands extending toward each other, then to the audience. The first act flowed marvelously, the words as comfortable and welcoming as an old friend returned home from war.

But then, act two began.

The backdrop shimmered and rippled as if viewed through a heat wave, and out from that disturbance shuffled a hunched and grotesque figure, its face covered by a blank white mask, its costume an arrangement of tattered yellow cloth.

Sylvester had written no such character. He turned to the director to demand an answer, but the man’s shocked expression told him everything. He did not know this stranger either.

The actresses did not stop or falter in their recitations, but they cringed and twitched away from the figure like worms on hot pavement.

The hunched figure came to the very edge of the stage, straightened, and uttered just one word. “Attend.”

Sylvester’s eyes were drawn to it. He heard the audience shifting as every patron sat forward in their seats, spellbound.

The figure raised its hands toward the mask, and the audience released a collective moan of horror at the sight of its pale and writhing skin. The flesh glistened and moved, as if thousands of thready worms burrowed beneath its surface. The theater went silent as the King removed his mask.

No one had the power to look away.

No one had the power to blink.

The collective screams of the audience could be heard from a block away in all directions, but when the police arrived, not a soul stirred. The seats were filled with bodies that breathed in unison, but didn’t speak or blink, or show any signs of awareness. All that remained were husks, exhaling together with a sound like waves lapping a distant shore.

The only evidence recovered was a blank white mask abandoned on stage, the inside of which was smeared with an unidentifiable, stinking jelly.

~~

Shenoa lives in Southern California and writes whatever catches her fancy, from horror to erotica and anything in between. Say hello on twitter @ShenoaSays or become a fan at www.facebook.com/sbcbfiction

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Posted on January 20, 2014, in Issue 12: The Shadows Only Hide the Monsters: Poe & Lovecraft Tribute and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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