Friday, December 16, 2011
Deja Vu Blogfest: Yellow Rhapsody
Here's my entry for the Deja Vu Blogfest. A Tale of Terror I call Yellow Rhapsody...
This is yet more game material written when I was a member of All of the Above, the GURPS APA. Yellow Rhapsody is an adventure seed featuring The King In Yellow. It was written in the systemless style of Steve Hatherley's Tales of Terror. I first saw this format in Pagan Publishing's legendary Call of Cthulhu zine The Unspeakable Oath. Written in 1997, I consider Yellow Rhapsody one the best things I have ever created. The only changes made here are spelling and formatting. Enjoy.
A Film by "Alan Smithee"
Man in the Mask: To what do you hold dear?
Robert: Life, love, happiness, what all men hold dear.
M in M: They mean nothing in the Tremors of the dance.
R: Then why do you dance if you have no pleasure?
M in M: There is no question in the dance, no why, no how. We dance for the king. That is enough.
R: Who is the King?
M in M: The name is all around you.
R: I see nothing.
M in M: That is his name.
The packaging is deceptive. It is a video box decorated by colorful computer generated art with the title Tales of the Weird set in garish red. The back has text that promises terrors from these three college films. The only film company mentioned on the cover in "Weird Press Films".
The first and second films are normal horror films. "Early for Dinner" is an EC Comics-style fable involving a grifter who attempts to con a beautiful gourmet cook. He gets his comeuppance when she makes him the meal for a family of ghouls. "Last Call" is a bizarre black and white blending of German Expressionistic film and Italian zombie films. Two couples spend a night in a deserted Midwest farm and stumble onto a devilish device that alters their reality.
"Yellow Rhapsody" is the highlight. It is an animated film done in a minimalist, Alex Toth-like style. The plot involves a young man named Robert Chambers who gets a strange book from his grandfather—The King in Yellow. As he reads the play, characters inspired by it begin to haunt him day and night. Helped by the mysterious Man in the Mask and the lovely Cassilda, he pierces the veil and walks the halls of Carcosa. After a surrealistic journey he meets the King, who envelopes him in voluminous cloaks of yellow. The film ends with Robert dancing with Cassilda in the King in Yellow's court. The Man in the Mask looks to the screen and pulls of his mask, revealing nothing but a starry field and a yellow rune where his left eye should be.
Tales of the Weird has become a cult classic due to the amount of disappearances connected to it. According to the legend that has grown up around it. The legend claims that "Yellow Rhapsody" was animated by a recluse who slit his own throat over the original cells of animation. It is a challenge, they say, to watch the film the whole way through. Something about the colors and the sound has a tendency to lull the viewer asleep or blur his vision. The ones that do claim that the camera plunges in the starry field and the credits begin to roll. An evil looking little boy with milky white eyes grins insanely as the credits begin to blur and break up, becoming unreadable.
Police are starting to take this case seriously. The suicides and disappearances on college campuses are starting to mount. Most of the original print run of the film has been seized and/or destroyed. Weird Press Films cannot be reached for comment.
1. The film itself is not the problem. It is the spirit of the animator that is the cause of the disappearances. The Mythos references were unintentional; he simply liked the King in Yellow. "Alan Smithee" lives within the original print of Yellow Rhapsody. He can perceive anyone who watches the entire film. After each viewing he attempts to take over the watcher. If he succeeds, Smithee drains life force or implants commands to watch the movie again. The disappearances are caused by the eventual destruction Smithee can visit upon a victim by draining them until they turn to dust.
2. The film is actually nested with subliminal messages put in by cultists at Weird Press Films. Throughout the video the Yellow Sign and other Mythos sigils and symbols are present. The other two short films also have references to the Mythos hidden within their narrative. The subliminals are a tool used by the cultists to recruit and identify. The curious ones are drawn to join the cult, while those who investigate the Mythos can by drawn out and eliminated. If innocents are driven to harm, that is not their concern.
3. "Yellow Rhapsody" is a cleverly disguised gate to Carcosa. If a person watches the film in its entirety (up to the grinning child), they become touched by the film. The viewer begins to watch the film over and over again and begins to see more detailed backgrounds. The sky forms into strange runes, the details in the clothes, and the characters' lines not heard before all become apparent. As the viewer becomes more drawn into the animation, the film becomes more nightmarish and surreal. The landscapes beyond the window become strange and alien, their inhabitants staring back. Screams of torture can be heard beneath the etherial music. Hallucinations begin to set in as the victim sees the characters come to life around him.
When sanity finally slips away, the Man in the Mask comes to snatch away the viewer, while Robert and Cassilda hold open the way to the city of Carcosa. The victim becomes one of the dancers whirling away to the dance of the Yellow King. A friend who watches the video might be lucky enough to see an old friend dancing for eternity in wild abandon as the Man in the Mask laughs mockingly.