"The King, He is Here"

 "The King, He is Here"

by J.M.E.S. Horn

Rain lashed against the grimy windowpane of Lester's room, the rhythm as relentless as the drumming in his head. Forty-eight years old, washed up, and broke, the only consolation was the lukewarm whiskey sloshing in his glass. His once thriving detective agency, "Yellow Sign Investigations," had gone the way of Carcosa itself, consumed by the shadows after that damn Hastur case.


A knock on the door, tentative yet insistent. It couldn't be Laura, not this late. He coughed, rasping, and shuffled over, unlocking the rickety latch. A young woman, soaked to the bone, stood in the hallway, fear etched on her porcelain features.


"Mr. Drake?" she stammered, her voice barely audible over the storm. "It's Laura, from the Gazette."


Laura, a ray of sunshine in this bleak existence, her fiery spirit and sharp wit keeping the flames of his cynicism from engulfing him completely. He ushered her in, skepticism battling concern.


"What brings you here at this hour, kid?" he gruffly inquired, offering her a towel.


"It's… strange," she began, her voice trembling. "I was chasing a lead on the Van der Sloot disappearance, ended up down by the waterfront. That's where I saw… them."


He raised an eyebrow, the whiskey warming him from the inside out. "Them who?"


"People," she shuddered, "or rather, not-people. Groaning, stumbling… like something out of a bad dream."


His blood ran cold. The whispers, the hushed rumors he'd been brushing off… Could it be true? Could the Hastur whispers have brought something even more sinister to Carcosa?


"Look, Laura," he began, caution warring with the need to protect her, "whatever you saw, it's probably just some unfortunate souls down on their luck. You know this city, shadows tend to play tricks on the mind."


She shook her head, her emerald eyes flashing with determination. "No, Mr. Drake, I know what I saw. And I need your help, before things get…" she trailed off, a strangled gasp escaping her lips.


A guttural moan echoed from the hallway, followed by the unmistakable thud of shambling footsteps. They weren't shadows, they were walking nightmares spilling onto the streets of Carcosa.


The next few days were a blur of frantic activity. Laura, fueled by journalistic zeal and a healthy dose of fear, used her contacts at the Gazette to spread the word, her articles veiled in cryptic warnings hinting at a "Hastur plague." He, fueled by whiskey and a flicker of his old detective spirit, used his network of informants to gather more information.


What they unearthed was horrifying. Similar reports were surfacing from across the city – sightings of pale, gaunt figures with vacant eyes and insatiable hunger. The authorities, however, remained blissfully ignorant, dismissing it as mass hysteria, a symptom of the city's ever-present underbelly.


One damp evening, hunched over a map marked with red Xs, they made a chilling connection. All the sightings centered around locations with connections to the King in Yellow, places mentioned in forbidden texts, haunted by whispers of Hastur and Carcosa. Could the play, the whispers, be a gateway, a beacon for something unspeakable?


Panic threatened to consume them, but the sight of Laura's resolute face, the fear masked by determination, gave him strength. He wouldn't let the shadows win, not again.


Their only hope: expose the truth, warn the city, before it was too late. But how? The Gazette wouldn't dare publish their claims, branding them madmen. They needed a bolder platform, a place where shadows danced and truths were whispered.


The answer came to them in the form of a dimly lit club hidden in the forgotten alleyways – The Yellow Sign. A haven for artists, misfits, and those who danced with the darkness. Tonight, Lester would return to the shadows, not as a detective, but as a storyteller, weaving a tale of horror and warning under the guise of fiction.


The air in the club was thick with smoke and desperation, the patrons lost in their own worlds. He mounted the makeshift stage, the flickering gaslight casting grotesque shadows on his face. Laura sat in the front row, her face a mask of worry and hope.


He began his tale, weaving a story of a city called Carcosa, of a masked king and a play that drove men mad. He spoke of whispers and shadows, of creatures risen from the dead, their hunger echoing the whispers of Hastur. The crowd, initially restless, fell silent, drawn into the macabre narrative.


He spoke of his "investigation," of the disappearances, the sightings, the (to be continued)