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Fear Jet Part 1 - Night Flight

Posted by Max_Writer , in Call of Cthulhu, Campaign Log 07 April 2017 · 313 views

CoC 1-6e Modern

Monday, April 3, 2017

 

(After playing the original Call of Cthulhu scenario “Fear Jet” Saturday at NerdCon 2017 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with Ambralyn Tucker, George Ekholm, Bay Shuford, Carl Cordini, Alexander Rogers, Alex Lawson, Danielle Brown, and Drake Powell. Due to conflicts, some investigators were played by two different players.)

 

On Friday, November 12, 1971, several employees of the insurance company American International Group Inc. (AIG) met a LaGuardia Airport in New York. Though they didn’t really know each other, they had all been selected from their various differing sections to attend a seminar in “Improving Productivity in the Workplace” offered in Kansas City, Missouri. The company had spent money to see they all got to the seminar in style, hiring a Learjet for the flight.

 

In late 1971, gas prices were around 35 cents a gallon and the voting age was lowered to 18 just that year. Walt Disney World in Florida opened the month before, cigarette advertising on television ended at the beginning of the year, war still raged in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon was President of the United States. Life was good … if you were a white male. Women and minorities were still fighting for their rights.

 

Each of them arrived at LaGuardia Airport that evening for their 9 p.m. flight.

 

* * *

 

Denise Thompson was a young, pretty secretary about five and a half feet tall. She was 22, slim, and had long blonde hair and blue eyes. She looked younger than her age and was often mistaken for a high school student. She didn’t like how men treated her but wasn’t sure what to do about it.

 

Denise was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, but left an abusive home at age 18 to seek her fortune elsewhere. Her father used to hit both her and her younger brother and sometimes the spankings were … strange. She ended up in New York, working for American International Group in the steno pool as a secretary. There, she avoided the groping hands and wandering eyes of the corporate men. She had been dating Robert Henderson for about six months but having trouble with a physical relationship due to issues with her father.

 

On her way to her gate, she was accosted by a man in an army jacket with a coffee cup in his hand.

 

“Spare change, lady?” the beggar asked. “Spare change? Spare change?”

 

“Uh …” she said. “Yes. Yes. Of course.”

 

She dropped a few coins into the cup.

 

“Tell me,” he said. “Have you seen the yellow sign?”

 

Then he wandered off to another person.

 

* * *

 

Trevor Stevens wasn’t as tall as he felt he should be. Standing five foot, five and one quarter inches, he made up for his short stature with his shoes (which added another inch) and the great clothing he wore. Thirty years old, he had dark hair and a mustache. He was in middle management and in charge of 40 people, none of them with him on the trip. He felt sure everyone on the jet would respect him. He had great hair, a great mustache, and was just great.

 

Trevor was brought up in the greatest city on Earth and he pushed himself to be the best he could be. His parents weren’t rich - they were downright poor - but he knew he could do better and already had! Graduating from NYU, he’d been working in the business world ever since. He’d only been a part of AIG for three years but he’d already gotten into middle management and soon figured he’d be running the whole show; he was certain of it. His wife was beautiful, his two kids (Katie and Pete) were great, and he was in good shape. Pete had just gotten into baseball. Life was good!

 

He even exchanged a friendly nod with a well-dressed man on the way to the gate. Even complete strangers wanted to know him!

 

* * *

 

Anne Simmons was a switchboard operator and receptionist at the company. She was drop-dead gorgeous with shoulder-length brown hair, stunning green eyes, and perfect features. All the boys in high school had wanted to date her; all the girls had wanted to be her. She was tall and leggy, standing about 5’8” and was slim and in shape. She was 25 years old.

 

Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Anne had graduated from Mary Baldwin University in 1968. From there, she decided to go to New York with the hopes of breaking into a modeling, acting, or possibly even directing. However, getting on Broadway was tough and even her modeling hadn’t taken off despite everyone telling her how beautiful she was. Two years before, she got a job for American International Group Inc (then called American International Underwriters Corporation) answering phones and running a switchboard. She found the work actually relaxing compared to what she trained to do in college. She was single though she wore an engagement ring to keep the men from hitting on her. It hadn’t worked.

 

As she headed for the gate, a woman in ragged clothing accosted her.

 

“Could you spare some change?” the woman said. “I just need to make a telephone call. I just need a dime.”

 

“Sure,” Anne said, handing her over some spare change.

 

“Thanks,” she said. “Thanks. He wears no mask.”

 

The woman left the perplexed girl.

 

* * *

 

Darryl Jefferson was a tall black man of 24 with a thick afro and a thin mustache. He wore the facial hair in the hopes of looking older and more professional. He was a handsome man and had a girlfriend, Loretta, who worked as a secretary at the company. The white people kept her down, just like they kept him down. As least her bosses left her alone … mostly.

 

Darryl had believed in America. He watched the Civil Rights Movement working while he was in college and he was able to get a masters degree in business. He came back to New York in 1969, confident he could make a difference, that the right company would accept his education and his ideas despite his color. He was wrong. Despite his education, the best job he could get was as a night watchman at the American International Building working for American International Group Inc. His parents were proud of him, but he felt like he’d failed everyone, especially himself.

 

As he walked to the gate, a man in a nice suit passed him and gave him a friendly nod.

 

* * *

 

Melvin Bell stood just shy of five and a half feet tall and had a shock of brown hair and muttonchops and a mustache because they were awesome. He was a little heavyset but always had been and figured the girls liked a teddy bear. He didn’t have a girlfriend, unfortunately. He was 26 years old and an accountant at the company.

 

Born and raised in Bayonne, N.J., Melvin always tried to be the cool kid in high school. It didn’t really work - he was in the Astronomy Club and the Accounting Club. After high school, he went to the Borough of Manhattan Community College for two years, getting an associate’s degree in accounting. That was enough to get him a job with American International Underwriters Corporation, which became American International Group Inc. in 1969. It was a very prestigious insurance company and he felt he had a very prestigious job. He’d been saving up and was considering moving out of his parents’ house.

 

When he’d been told of the trip, Melvin had asked his manager if there was free champagne on the flight.

 

“I don’t know, Melvin!” the man said. “God!”

 

When he got to the airport that evening, he stopped at a candy store and bought some malted milk balls.

 

On the way to the gate, he smelled something terrible. It was like a landfill on a bad day. He looked around and spotted the derelict wearing stinking, dirty clothing. The man had a terrible reek about him that was just foul. One of his eyes was glassed over with massive cataracts. His long, stringy gray hair clung to his head like seaweed. The stench of his breath was awful.

 

“Hey … ya got enough money for a cup o’ coffee, mister?” the old man growled.

 

“Uh …” Melvin said.

 

“C’mon,” the man said, putting his filthy hand on Melvin’s suit coat.

 

“Aw … not on the suit,” Melvin said, pulling away. “Not on the suit! Here. Take it and leave me alone.”

 

“C’mon mister,” the man said.

 

Melvin handed the man some money.

 

“Leave me alone,” he said again.

 

“… but stranger still is lost Carcosa, huh?” the beggar said. “Yeah. Y’know.”

 

“Yeah,” Melvin said. “Okay.”

 

* * *

 

Morton “Morty” Finch was not very good-looking and his 37 years were already starting to show. He stood about 5’8” tall and was skinny. He had blonde hair that he tried to keep in a fashionable style. He’d heard blue eyes were dreamy, but no one had ever called his that. He was a file clerk with the company, a pencil-pusher, and had anger issues.

 

He’d always been Morty to his friends, he’d always lived in the Bronx, not too far from his parents, he’d always worked for this insurance company … at least that’s how it seemed. He almost got married once. He almost got a promotion. He almost went on a vacation overseas. In reality, he’d really done nothing. He did his work at American International Group Inc., filing papers and such, and he got paid. He did own a cat!

 

He passed a man with only one arm who sat on the floor with his back against the wall. A grubby piece of cardboard read “Spare Change” in front of him. He ignored the man.

 

“He’s the king whom emperors have served!” the man called after him.

 

Morty just shook his head.

 

* * *

 

It was just 9 p.m. when they all met at the gate, checked their luggage, and headed down the ramp to the tarmac where the Learjet sat waiting for them.

 

The Model 24 Variant D Learjet gleamed white on the darkened asphalt. She was a sleek little craft with clamshell doors, the lower steps lined with red carpet. Twin nacelles were on the end of the wings and the twin jet engines of the 43-foot long craft were attached towards the aft. She stood on three landing legs, waiting for them, almost like a predator waiting for its prey.

 

They boarded the aircraft. It was the lap of luxury. Comfortable leather seats filled it with wood finish on the hard surfaces. There were six seats: two in the very back, two ahead of them facing backwards, a seat near the door facing forward, and a seat across from the door, facing it.

 

The pilot and co-pilot introduced themselves as Harold Watson and Clifford Bender. They greeted the passengers and were very friendly. They noted the flight would only take about two and a half hours, perhaps less with a tailwind. Captain Watson apologetically pointed out the only bathroom on the craft was the bucket under the seat facing the main door. He also showed them a small refreshment station with refrigerated drinks, a little alcohol, and bags of snacks including pretzels, honey-roasted peanuts, and even small boxes of Nabisco Barnum’s Animal Crackers.

 

Melvin asked if the drinks or snacks cost anything and the man told him it was all part of the service. When he asked about smoking, the man told him they could smoke once they took off.

 

“Does that mean I have to put this out?” Trevor asked.

 

He had a cigarette in his mouth.

 

“You probably have time to finish it off before we get going, sir,” Captain Watson said.

 

“All right,” Trevor said.

 

Then the two crewmen went into the cockpit to begin the preflight checks.

 

The passengers made themselves comfortable. Someone checked out the little refrigerator and found a dozen cans of Coca-Cola and ginger ale, two quart bottles of seltzer water, and two dozen tiny bottles of gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey. There was also ice and tumblers. Darryl realized how much the flight for the six of them was probably costing the company and wondered why they were making such a huge investment when they could have flown commercial.

 

Denise sat in the very back next to Melvin. Anne sat opposite Denise, facing backwards, next to Morty. Trevor picked the sideways seat and Darryl sat in the seat next to the clamshell door.

 

By the time Trevor finished his cigarette, the Learjet’s engines revved loudly and the aircraft made its way to the runway. The intercom crackled.

 

“Please, everyone, please fasten your seatbelt,” Captain Watson’s voice said.

 

They all fastened their seatbelts and the jet accelerated down the runway, pushing the passengers into their amazingly comfortable seats. They looked out the windows as they took off. Morty, Melvin, Anne, and Denise each saw the person who had accosted them for money in the airport. Each was standing by the runway, just watching the plane take off.

 

“Holy crap, it’s the man with one arm!” Morty said.

 

“What are you talking about?” Trevor sneered. “It’s just a runway.”

 

“Does the guy think he can get spare change from the airplane?”

 

“It’s nine o’clock. How could you possibly see anything?”

 

As they left the ground, flawlessly, the intercom crackled again.

 

“You can unfasten your seatbelts, folks, and we will soon be reaching an altitude of 45,000 feet for our flight to …” The intercom suddenly crackled with interference and it sounds like he said “Carcosa.” Then it crackled again and he ended with “Missouri.”

 

“Carcosa?” Melvin said.

 

“Carcosa?” Darryl said.

 

Trevor went to the refrigerator and mixed himself a drink with whiskey and soda. Denise had a can of ginger ale. Melvin lit up his pipe. Morty took three of the bottles of vodka, opened each one up, and drank them down one after another. Trevor was visibly angry at how limited the bar was. He started writing down his complaints as he took three bottles of whiskey. Melvin got a tumbler and filled it with the malted milk balls he’d bought at the airport. Darryl mixed rum and Coke.

 

The stars were very bright outside. Those who looked down could see the lights from various cities and towns the Learjet passed over. Melvin offered malted milk balls to Anne but noticed she was wearing an engagement ring so didn’t press it. He offered malted milk balls to Denise.

 

“I’m happy to be someone’s choice,” she said. “Even if it’s second choice.”

 

Melvin handed her the entire tumbler of malted milk balls, feeling so bad for her.

 

“So, how you doing tonight?” Trevor leaned over the back of Anne’s chair.

 

“Oh boy,” she said.

 

She turned and put her left hand on the back of the seat to make sure Trevor could see it.

 

“Well, okay,” he said. “Don’t worry. Me too.”

 

He showed her his wedding ring.

 

“Hey, you got me to talk to if you want to,” Darryl said to him. “Look at it this way, I’m on the lowest end of the totem pole in this group. You’re the high end of the totem pole. I have a business masters and I could do some damned good accounting. I figured this cost about─”

 

“Don’t worry. Don’t worry about that. Hey hey hey. If you tried harder, you might be where I am right now. You know?”

 

“Yeah. I could also try a bleach job as well, man.”

 

“Hey, my hair is naturally black. You don’t see a bit of gray on here, now, do you, boy.”

 

“Right. Right. Aw man.”

 

They talked and drank for 15 or 20 minutes before there was suddenly a bright yellow light outside the aircraft. The craft shook and there was a strange, loud grinding noise. The yellow light that poured in was so bright, nothing could be seen out of the windows and it had an odd, almost greasy feel. It produced no warmth and was a shade of yellow that just felt wrong.

 

Melvin, Darryl, and Trevor noticed the light came brightly through the cockpit door.

 

The light was gone after only a few moments. Trevor got up and knocked on the cockpit door but there was no answer.

 

“Hey!” he called. “What’s going on in there? C’mon!”

 

“You all right in there?” Darryl called.

 

“What was that?” Melvin said.

 

Trevor knocked harder.

 

“Is this effin thing unlocked?” he muttered.

 

He grabbed the handles and slid the two door open.

 

“Careful, man,” Darryl said. “Careful.”

 

The cockpit was completely empty. There was no sign of either the pilot or the copilot.

 

“Ah!” Trevor said.

 

Melvin, who had gotten up and moved forward, choked on the smoke of his pipe.

 

“Houston, I think we have a problem,” Trevor said.

 

“Oh no,” Melvin said.

 

“We don’t have a pilot!” Trevor said.

 

“Oh no,” Melvin said.

 

Everyone started talking at once.

 

“What do you mean ‘We don’t have a pilot?’” Anne said.

 

“I mean we don’t have a damned pilot!” Trevor screamed.

 

“Okay, well they can’t just disappear,” Anne said.

 

“Anybody know how to fly one of these damned things!?!” Darryl said.

 

“They were there one second!” Trevor shrieked. “And they ain’t there now!”

 

“We should stop arguing and maybe someone should go─” Melvin said.

 

“Shut up!” Trevor screamed. “All right!?! God!”

 

“Would you please stop screaming,” Denise said quietly from the back.

 

“I can pilot this airplane!” Morty said with a drunken grin.

 

“Until we can figure out what the drat is going on here─” Trevor yelled.

 

“We should probably grab the controls first!” Melvin said.

 

“Please stop yelling,” Denise said again.

 

“Do you know how to fly a effin plane!?!” Trevor yelled.

 

“I do!” Morty said.

 

“‘Cause I sure as hell don’t!” Trevor said.

 

Melvin entered the cockpit and sat at the controls. They looked very complex with many dials, buttons, and switches. He grabbed the control wheel, but it wouldn’t move.

 

“I do!” Morty said again.

 

“You do?” Trevor said to Monty. “Get in here! What the drat are you waiting for!?! God damn!”

 

Morty climbed into the cockpit.

 

“I’ve got this, everyone,” Melvin said. “I can do this.”

 

“You told me you knew how to fly a effin plane!” Trevor yelled.

 

“I didn’t say I knew how to fly!” Melvin said. “I said … uh … ‘I can do this.’ Uh … I can do this. I can do this. Uh …”

 

He realized he was sitting on something. He pulled it out from under him.

 

“I don’t think we have enough time to read this, but …” he said, looking at the strange symbol on the front.

 

The poisonous symbol seemed to twist and swirl and squirm, reaching for him for several seconds. Then it was just a symbol on a book bound in reddish brown leather. He tossed it onto the co-pilot’s seat where Morty sat. He looked down at it and the horrific symbol again squirmed and swirled and reached for him just a moment. He flipped it open and it looked like a play. The page was set up with names and dialogue.

 

“What the hell is that?” Trevor asked. “Is that the damned manual? For this plane?”

 

Morty turned to the front. The frontispiece titled it The King in Yellow. The Roman numerals MCMLII, for 1952, were at the bottom of the page though no publishing house was listed. There was no table of contents.

 

“Okay, that’s not going to help us,” he said.

 

“Is that the damned manual?” Trevor asked again.

 

“No, it’s not a manual,” Morty said. “It’s some playbook.”

 

“What the drat is a play doing in the cockpit of a plane!?!” Trevor said.

 

“My question exactly!” Morty said.

 

“What’s going on?” Anne asked.

 

“What is he yelling about?” Denise asked her.

 

“We have no pilot,” Anne replied.

 

“So …” Trevor said.

 

“I need a drink,” Morty mumbled.

 

“Me too,” Denise said, taking one of the ginger ale cans from the little refrigerator.

 

Melvin looked over the controls. He knew little or nothing about flying. Morty was not much more help. What was strange was when they looked out of the windshield, they couldn’t see the ground at all. Just more stars below them. Melvin justified it.

 

“We’re just over a body of water,” he said.

 

Trevor went back to his seat.

 

“We’ll be fine,” he said to Denise. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

 

“How do you know that?” she said. “If we don’t have a pilot?”

 

“We got those two up there. I’m sure they’ve got some clue. What the hell do you expect me to do right now?”

 

“I don’t know!”

 

“Just calm your pretty little head.”

 

“I think we’re really off course,” Melvin called from the cockpit. “I think the ocean’s below us.”

 

“What!?!” Trevor said.

 

“Or a lake or something,” Melvin said as Trevor walked to the cockpit again.

 

He noticed the compass for the first time. It indicated they were heading west. Trevor entered the cockpit.

 

“From where we were, heading west … where’s west of where we were?” Melvin said.

 

“We left from La Guardia, man,” Darryl said. “You say there’s ocean underneath there?”

 

Morty looked at his watch. They’d only been in the air about 20 minutes.

 

“Yeah, I mean I see stars but … yeah,” Melvin said.

 

“Twenty minutes on a flight that was supposed to be about two and a half hours,” Morty said. “So I don’t think we’re too far off. If we’re headed west … should be maybe over Pennsylvania or some crap like that.”

 

“I don’t … you think it’s a city down there?” Melvin said.

 

“What’s going on in there!” Trevor said.

 

“Just look down!” Melvin said. “Just look out the window!”

 

Trevor looked out the window and noticed the stars both above and below the aircraft. Anne, in the back, looked out the window as well. Morty went to the refrigerator for more vodka.

 

“Is that Lake Michigan?” he called. “Are we over Detroit or some crap? We need to lock our doors if we’re over Detroit.”

 

He laughed at his own bad joke.

 

“I’ll be glad to be your tour guide in Detroit,” Darryl quipped.

 

“Hold your wallets everyone!” Monty said.

 

Denise looked out as well and was unnerved to see the stars above and below. She was very disturbed by the sight.

 

“Are you all right?” Anne asked the girl. “Are you all right?”

 

Denise just shook her head.

 

In the cockpit, Melvin looked over the controls. There were so many.

 

“I swear to God!” Trevor said, noting his confusion. “You said you knew what you were doing! If you don’t land us, I will shove my foot so far up your ass!”

 

“Look!” Melvin yelled at him. “Yelling is not helping me, okay!?!”

 

“So much pathos here!” Darryl said, getting another drink from the bar. “I love it!”

 

“If I push forward, we go down, right?” Melvin said.

 

“Uh …” Anne said.

 

“I don’t think we want to go down,” Melvin said.

 

“No, we want to go up!” Trevor said. “What’s the fuel gauge say?”

 

“I don’t know where the fuel gauge is!”

 

“What do you mean you don’t know where the fuel gauge is!?! I thought you knew how to fly the damned plane!”

 

“I said I would try!”

 

“Why don’t you get in there and take a look?” Morty said.

 

“Yeah!” Melvin said. “You do it!”

 

“I will, damn it!” Trevor said.

 

“Okay, fine!” Melvin said. “Fine!”

 

He got up as Trevor moved forward. Morty gave the latter a shove to encourage him into the room. Trevor stumbled into Melvin and were tangled up. Trevor spun around.

 

“If you ever touch me again … I will make you regret it,” he growled at Morty.

 

“Whoa whoa whoa!” Melvin said. “Look. Look. Look. Let’s just calm down and we’ll figure out where we are. You know what? We can figure where are …”

 

Trevor turned back to the cockpit though he tried to watch the other man out of the corner of his eye. Morty looked around for something to hit Trevor with, finally settling on the plastic bucket under the sideways-facing seat. Melvin took the book from where Morty had dropped it in the cockpit. He stopped at the refrigerator long enough to get a bottle of whiskey and found a seat in the back of the cabin. He started to read through the play.

 

“I’m so sorry, you two,” he said to the ladies.

 

“What is that?” Anne said.

 

“It’s a book,” he said. “I don’t know.”

 

“What is that?” Denise said.

 

“Hey man, what’s in the book?” Darryl said, leaning back over his seat.

 

“I don’t know,” he said again.

 

“Where did you find it?”

 

“It was in the cockpit.”

 

“And it’s not an instruction manual?” Anne said.

 

“No,” he replied. “I don’t know. It’s pretty strange. I don’t know how it got in there.”

 

“Can I see it?” Darryl said.

 

“Okay,” Melvin said.

 

He handed the man the book.

 

In the cockpit, Trevor sat down in the pilot’s seat and looked over the controls, dials, and switches without touching anything. It was so very, very complex. He spotted what he guessed was the altimeter though. He knew that showed their altitude. The needle was buried over 50,000 feet, the highest it would go. He tried to remember in movies how to fly a plane and tried to push the controls forward but they wouldn’t move. They were solidly locked in place.

 

Morty entered the cockpit, put the bucket over Trevor’s head, and then banged on the side of it. Trevor jumped up, flung off the bucket, and looked him dead in the eye. Then he took a swing at the man’s face but Morty ducked down and punched Trevor in the crotch. The businessman stumbled down to one knee.

 

In the cabin, Darryl jumped up and grabbed at Morty but slammed his shoulder into the doorway and stopped dead. Anne also leapt up from her seat and ran to Darryl.

 

“Hey, are you okay?” she said. “You just took a fall! What’s going on?”

 

In the cockpit, Trevor, who had fallen to a knee in pain, punched Morty in the crotch. Morty thought he could easily get out of the way but then stepped right into the punch. The pain was agonizing but he still swung at the man’s nose. Trevor ducked to one side.

 

Melvin reached into the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of club soda.

 

“Stop!” Denise cried out. “Stop, please! Stop being violent, okay? Violence isn’t going to help anything!”

 

Darryl grabbed at Morty, trying to pull him out of the cockpit. He didn’t get a good grip.

 

“Oh, what the drat?” Morty said. “Security’s involved now?”

 

“Stop this violence!” Anne said. “Where are the pilots? Just stop!”

 

Trevor got up and glared at Morty.

 

“Since I’m the bigger man here,” he said, looking up at the taller man, “I’m going to let you go. Because these ladies do not deserve to see such violence on this plane.”

 

Realizing Trevor, with his height, had a certain tactical advantage for the nether regions, Morty decided to regroup and make another strategy. He let Darryl pull him out of the cockpit while he glared at Trevor.

 

“Pathetic drunk,” Trevor muttered under his breath.

 

He sat back down and tried to figure out how to fly the plane. Wriggling the control wheel had absolutely no affect. It didn’t move. He heard a hissing noise and found the radio. He started to fiddle with that.

 

Back in the cabin, Melvin settled down to read the book again.

 

“I was an actress,” Anne said.

 

“It’s a play?” Darryl said. “A real play? You mean dialogue?”

 

Melvin flipped through the book and guessed he’d be able to read it in a couple of hours.

 

The title of the play was The King in Yellow. Anne said she’d never heard of it and Darryl asked where it was published or written. No publishing house was evident and the roman numerals for 1952 were the only markings where they expected to find a copyright. It was in English.

 

In the front of the book was a list of characters or Dramatis Personae that read:

 

The Queen: middle-aged but beautiful, worried about the succession of the throne of Yhtill.
Prince Aldones: the oldest son, proud and bellicose.
Prince Thale: another son, love struck with Annea, daughter of the Earl of Marionn.
Prince Alar: happy-go-lucky third son.
Prince Uoht: youngest son, shy and reserved.
Princess Cassilda and Camilla: teenage daughters, precocious and prone to mischief.
Naotalba: high priest of Yhtill’s god, imperious and skeptical of the legends of the Last King.
Dornan: aged royal advisor, cold, stoic, steadfast.
Keleth: royal torturer, sadistic, middle-aged man.
Molle: Keleth’s teenaged assistant and implied lover.
Kieran: octogenarian servant woman, living in an extended fantasy in which she is a young girl in love with the royal boatman, Mathes, who died when she was a teenager …
Mathes: Kieran’s imagined young boatman/lover.
The Earl of Marionn and the Duke of Frost: devious noblemen of Yhtill who scheme to poison the royal family to avoid the problem of succession and thus the possibility of the coming of the Last King.
Loreon: a sardonic minstrel whose rhymes and songs help flesh out the story.
Annea: daughter of the Earl of Marionn, and the young lover of Prince Thale.
Rotus: the ancient royal astrologer, doddering but determined to see the future in the stars.
The Phantom of Truth, or Pallid Mask: a mysterious pale-faced stranger who wears the forbidden Yellow Sign.
The King in Yellow, or Last King: legendary monarch whose arrival will spell doom for Yhtill.

 

Melvin had never heard of any of the names. Nor had Denise.

 

“That’s weird,” Darryl said.

 

He asked Anne if any of it was familiar to her but though she was very well-read, she had never heard of a play called The King in Yellow. Denise lifted up the side of the book and looked at the cover. It suddenly seemed to shift and change, reaching for her for a moment. Her eyes went wide.

 

Melvin continued to read, finding there were three acts, which he dog-eared. The first act seemed to be located in the Palace of Yhtill. He found the play was set in the decadent alien city of Yhtill located in the Hyades with Aldebaran prominent in the night skies. The unnamed Queen and her four sons and daughters were talking at the beginning of the play.

 

In the cockpit, Trevor continued to fiddle with the radio.

 

“Is anyone there?” came plaintively over the radio. “Are you all right?”

 

Then there was more static.

 

“Hello?” Trevor said. “Hello? Damn it!”

 

He continued to fiddle with the dial and suddenly, a child singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” came over the airwaves. He looked at it, eyes widening, and then quickly switched to a different frequency.

 

In the back, Melvin heard it as well. It was somewhat disturbing.

 

Then Trevor thought he heard a sound like cows coming over the radio. In the back, Melvin looked up and listened to what was going on in the cockpit.

 

Morty stood up to look around for something to use to hurt Trevor, preferably something big and heavy he could hit him with. He moved to the back of the cabin and looked behind the big seat there. He was pleasantly surprised to find a baseball bat.

 

Melvin, meanwhile, had moved to the cockpit to listen more closely to what was on the radio. A shriek came over the set. Trevor turned it off and turned around.

 

Denise stood up and started to pace the cabin, holding herself tightly with her arms. The sound had also upset Anne. Trevor noticed Morty, in the back of the cabin, with a baseball bat.

 

“Whoa whoa whoa!” Trevor yelled. “What the hell have you got that for, buddy?”

 

“Hey batter batter!” Morty said with a grin. “Swing batter!”

 

“Tackle that guy!” Trevor yelled. “Get him! You’re a security guard, right?”

 

“Whoa,” Darryl said.

 

“Protect!” Trevor said. “Protect!”

 

Darryl grabbed at the bat.

 

“What do you think are doing?” Darryl said.

 

“Oh ****!” Morty said.

 

He tried to pull the bat out of Darryl’s grip but Darryl wouldn’t let go, kicking the man in the crotch.

 

“I felt that over here!” Trevor said with a grin.

 

“drat you, nigger!” Morty cried out in pain. “drat you!”

 

He tried to jerk the bat out of Darryl’s grip without luck. The two struggled over it. Nearby, Denise was on the verge of tears. Anne leapt from her seat and made for the cockpit even as Trevor tried to get Denise in there. She wasn’t moving.

 

Melvin came to the back of the cabin once again. He grabbed the baseball bat by the middle and twisted it out of both of their hands.

 

“Thanks, man,” Darryl said.

 

“Everyone calm down!” Melvin said. “Both of you sit down! You, especially!”

 

“drat you,” Morty said.

 

“What are you doing?” Denise said to Trevor.

 

“You okay?” he said.

 

“No! I already don’t like planes and now you’re just fighting in here for no reason!”

 

“Well, the guy’s threatening people with the bat. He’s obviously not well right now. I just want to make sure you don’t get hurt.”

 

“Get me a drink,” Morty mumbled.

 

He crawled towards the front of the plane, making his way towards the refrigerator, head down. Trevor pushed him away with his foot.

 

“Get away from me!” Trevor said.

 

The radio crackled in the cockpit again as Trevor put himself between Denise and Morty, holding out an arm to protect her and copping a feel at the same time.

 

“Look, buddy, you come one step closer, I’m kicking your head in!” Trevor said.

 

Morty ignored him and crawled to the fridge. He thought he heard glass tinkling inside and opened it. Nothing at first seemed out of place. Then he realized all of the bottles had little worms in them.

 

“Holy ****!” he said. “There’s worms in the bottles. Why are there worms in the bottles?”

 

He noticed even the seltzer bottle had something floating in it.

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” Trevor said. “He’s drunk. Crazy drunk.”

 

“Talk about a bad case of the DTs,” Darryl said.

 

“Your mom has the DTs,” Morty said.

 

“Okay, what are you talking about up there,” Darryl said. “What are you talking about?”

 

“Look at the bottles.”

 

“I’m sorry for kicking you so hard but a baseball bat in an airplane. What do you think you’re doing?”

 

“I was going to whack Trevor over the head with it.”

 

“You can’t whack him. He’s at the cockpit, he’s at the control. But let’s see what’s inside that thing there.”

 

Darryl realized they weren’t worms. They were various strange little animals or bits of animals. And they weren’t dead. Whatever they were, they were moving around in the bottles. Darryl remembered drinking from the bottles and felt his stomach turn, wondering what was in it. It felt like something was moving around in there.

 

Anne, standing next to the radio, noticed some birds flying by the jet. At first it was a relief - something normal amid all the strangeness that had been happening. Then she realized they weren’t birds. They flapped rhythmically, several hybrid winged things … not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor decomposed human beings, but something like all of them at once! She stared at them in horror.

 

Melvin sat down in the back of the cabin, holding the baseball bat, and tried to read again.

 

“Do you see birds?” Anne asked.

 

“I’m still trying to figure out why that asshole is trying to kill me!” Trevor said.

 

“Yes, but could you look outside for one minute?”

 

Trevor looked outside. Nothing but stars was there.

 

“I just see stars,” he said.

 

She looked again but the things were gone. Did the jet outrun them? Did they outrun the jet?

 

“I just see the same stars I saw before,” he said again. “Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine,” she said.

 

He turned to Denise.

 

“Are you okay?” he asked.

 

“We ain’t okay back here,” Darryl called.

 

“I’m not worried about you right now!” Trevor shouted.

 

“Don’t feel sorry about the you-know-who, you know?” Darryl called.

 

The radio crackled again. Trevor had thought he’d turned it off.

 

“Turn off the radio!” he said.

 

A woman’s voice started battling incoherently. It started to grow louder in volume but Trevor reached over and turned it off.

 

“That might have been someone!” Anne said. “That might have been someone!”

 

“No!” Trevor said. “No. I’ve been listening to that damned radio. Something’s broken or not right with that thing because I’ve been hearing children and cows. I don’t know what the hell’s going on.”

 

“Well, we could try to fix it. Or something.”

 

“That’s what I’m going to do … you think I didn’t think of that? That’s what I’m going to do next. All right?”

 

A rattling started to come from inside the little cabinet where they’d been told there were snacks. Morty opened it up. There were bags of pretzels, honey-roasted peanuts, and the like, as well as a half dozen boxes of Nabisco Barnam’s Animal Crackers in the little cardboard boxes. The noises seemed to be coming from the animal crackers boxes. It sounded like mice.

 

Morty took one of the boxes and could feel something moving inside of it. He shook it. Something continued to move within. He looked at Trevor and then ripped open the box and flung it at man. The throw was not very good and the box and animal crackers landed on the floor between Morty and the cockpit. Both Morty and Darryl saw the animal crackers shiver and then move, getting up and walking in a strange way, splitting into two groups. They bent strangely and unnaturally to move on warped and mismatched legs. Half of them headed for the cockpit while the other half headed for the two of them.

 

“Holy ****!” Morty said.

 

Melvin had looked up briefly from The King in Yellow when Morty had flung the crackers but had gone back to his reading. When he heard Morty curse again, he looked up and then noticed the things moving on the floor. The three in the cockpit turned and looked towards the things.

 

“Jesus Christ!” Melvin yelled.

 

Denise screamed and started crying hysterically. Trevor put his arm around the girl to comfort her.

 

“Calm down,” he said. “Calm down. I don’t know what’s going on but we’ll be fine.”

 

Darryl started stomping on the animal crackers. He noticed some of them were trying to jump on and get onto his feet and legs. In the front of the cockpit, Anne turned back to the radio.

 

“Don’t turn that thing on!” Trevor said. “I’m warning you!”

 

As the animal crackers entered the cockpit, Trevor smashed them with his foot. Morty just watched, horrified. Then Melvin ran up and stomped on the things as well.

 

“I’m trying to read this damned book!” he cried.

 

Denise pushed off Trevor.

 

“You’re a dick!” she said to him. “That doesn’t help.”

 

They managed to smash all of the things which were trying to crawl up each of their legs. Then the radio crackled again and a woman’s voice came from it. Anne recognized her.

 

“Could you spare some change?” the voice called. “I just need to make a telephone call. I just need a dime. I just need some money for the phone.”

 

“Sure,” Anne said, staring at the radio in terror.

 

It was the voice of the woman who had asked her for money in the airport. She turned the radio back off.

 

“Told you you shouldn’t have turned that thing back on!” Trevor said.

 

Denise’s legs gave out and she sat on the floor, sobbing and mumbling. Otherwise, it was very quiet.

 

Melvin lit his pipe and returned to the back of the aircraft to continue reading. Darryl looked into the cockpit to see how they were doing up there. Morty, near the other boxes could hear movement from them as well. Darryl offered to take over in the cockpit.

 

“Take a shot, man,” Trevor said.

 

Darryl went into the cockpit as the others came out. Trevor went to the refrigerator and saw the worms in the bottles. They looked like they were alive. When he looked at one closer, it proved to not be a worm, but a tentacle. It had no head or eyes or mouth but seemed to move of its own accord in the liquid, twitching horribly. He put the bottle down and walked away.

 

Darryl’s stomach still felt weird.

 

“Can you tell what’s going on with the radio because I’ve been busy in the back,” he said.

 

“There’s something wrong with the radio, man,” Trevor said, taking his seat again. “Don’t turn it on.”

 

“Can you tell me what exactly it was saying? I thought I heard a kid’s voice on there.”

 

“Man, I can take a look at it, see what the hell’s wrong, but, until then, I wouldn’t turn it on.”

 

He started asking about the controls and they discussed the various items, the altimeter, and the gas gauge. He asked Trevor to come to the cockpit to figure it out but the man refused, coming no further than the door. They discussed what had happened to Morty and Trevor claimed it had been vodka.

 

Morty ignored them and took a closer look in the fridge. He picked up one of the quart bottles of seltzer water and saw what looked like some kind of tiny octopus or jellyfish within, swimming around. He stared at it intently, watching the thing move around and around and around in the bottle.

 

Denise stopped sobbing but sat on the floor in the cockpit, head in her hands.







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