A short story by Thomas LeRoy
Since it goes without saying that you are reading this, it’s also obvious that a worthy, or maybe “receptive”, candidate has been located to relay this message. This communication is being transmitted by the will of the Ipsissimus, a conscious projection of pure thought from the primordial depths of the Dark Absolute, an admission of the one and only who found what lies beyond the collective unconscious in a void free of spatial, or temporal, configuration.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Carl Gustav Jung believed the collective unconscious was a place, a location, where the archetypes dwell to send out their avatars: the gods and monsters, angels and demons. Many have visited this realm, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Friedrich Nietzsche was one of them. He did not go mad from venereal poisoning, brain cancer, or that malady that removed his father from the coporeal layer called “softening of the brain”. No, all are lies. Nietzsche was not a victim of madness, but instead he was a psychonaut that dared to venture into the collective unconscious. Now, one would state that that is no great feat, for many through the use of meditation, drugs, or ritual, have dipped a toe into its depths. The difference is that the great philosopher fully immersed himself into the Abyss by sheer will, and he retained his ego — his conscious identity — in the abode of the archetypes.
Still don’t get it?
Let me explain it this way.
When one delves into the deep subconscious the ego is dissolved, it becomes one with the greater collective, like a water-balloon popped in a filled tub, thus resulting in the temporary annihilation of the mind’s personal identity. I am convinced that Nietzsche’s ego never became one with the collective unconscious, that he took it whole and intact into that abysmal profundity, and what was left behind — that body — was but a husk, a husk his horrid sister utilized in a dreadful case of exploitation and psychogenic incest. But I am not Nietzsche, for a mind such as his only comes about once in a millennia, and that being so, I must utilize other means to achieve that ultimate goal of all dark adepts — Apotheosis. And going head-first into the collective unconscious, with one’s ego intact, is a short-cut to that goal.
Lucky for me finding aid in my quest would not be all that difficult, for I am the owner of an occult bookstore. Located in an old Victorian that predates San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake, it’s filled with beautiful hardwood shelves lined with candles, herbs, rings, pendants, and those wonderful leather-bound tomes — sans paperbacks. This store is perhaps the last of its kind in California, a state where you mostly find “New Age” book-sellers of inane drivel, and not sellers of truly “occultic” content. Much of my sales are done online, but there are still a surprising amount of walk-ins. I’ve owned the store for twelve years, purchasing it after inheriting a rather healthy sum from my otherwise worthless parents, they having died in a freak hot-tub accident. Their meaty cadavers stewed in that giant crock-pot for days, gray flesh sliding off bone (I wonder what it smelled like?). Eventually this morbid tableau was discovered by my sister, Nikolett. Since our parents were both from Hungary, I referred to the affair as the “Goulash Incident” to the local media and now she won’t speak to me. Oh well.
Trying to retain a business in California is no easy feat, and this being San Francisco the homeless have compounded the problem. Begging, shooting-up, shitting, pissing and passing out on the sidewalk in front of one’s establishment can put a damper on business. And sometimes these “urban campers” pitch tents right in front of my door, with no regard for me or my customers.
On that rainy-gray morning of December 2nd it was no different. A tiny blue dome-tent, held together with duct-tape, sat there before the door to my bookstore like a malignant growth.
“Hey,” I said as I shook the tent. “You gotta fuckin’ go.” There came no sound but that of traffic and the patter of rain on the tent. “I’m not fuckin’ around. You gotta go!”
“What . . . ?” came a gravelly voice from inside.
“You heard me.”
There was a long pause, then, “Okay. But the rain . . .”
“That’s your God damned problem!”
The tent zipped open and out crawled a large being in a filthy yellow hoodie. He slid out like a maggot being squeezed out of a zit.
“Holy fuck . . . ” I said, just above a whisper.
He slowly came to his feet and stood before me, tall, much taller than me. Hunched and disheveled, his eyes were tiny deep-set black orbs in a jaundiced face that was a twisted mass of scar tissue — that, I swear, moved! I don’t mean like a tic or a muscle twitch, but undulated, squirmed, like a bowl filled with earthworms. And he smelled of piss or patchouli, I couldn’t tell which.
“You have the book,” he said. I don’t think it was a question.
Looking at that face inside the hoodie caused an awful sensation, like icy spiders crawling up my spine. This bastard creeped me the fuck out. “I have lots of books,” I said. “Now, go!”
“The play.” A thick, dirty hand gestured toward the door to the bookstore.
“Get out of here,” I said.
“The book . . . the play,” he said again.
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,” I said as I pointed down the street. “But you just have to go!”
He stared at me with those wet, beady eyes, then sighed. I watched as he went down on his knees and reached into his tent pulling out a plastic bag that I guess was stuffed with his treasured belongings. He stood and grabbed his tent, whole, not bothering to close it up.
“Have you seen the yellow sign?” he whispered.
“Have you seen the yellow sign?” he said louder.
“What did I say?”
He began to walk away, tent in one hand, bag in the other, and for a third time he muttered over his shoulder, “Have you seen the yellow sign?”
As I unlocked the door I kept an eye on the lumbering hulk until he disappeared around the corner onto Taylor Street. I wiped the rain from my face and stepped inside.
I remember the first time I set foot in Lilith’s Grotto Bookstore and Occult Supplies back about twenty years ago. The smell. Besides the perfume of incense, herbs, and candles, there was the scent of old leather and old paper. After a while I couldn’t smell that potpourri any longer, having grown accustomed to it. I missed it. Besides the average occult supplies, the store’s main reason for existing were those wonderful old volumes, especially the leather bound ones of black, brown, gray, and, in some cases, dark-green lining the shelves with pages of black ink filled with words, symbols, drawings and sigils. I almost hated to sell them, some were very rare and expensive. Selling a single grimiore could keep me in the black for months. As a matter of fact that very day I sold two, an 1839 Düsseldorf edition of Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt, and a copy of The Grimorium Verum, dated 1817. After that second sale I turned the sign over on the door, closing early.
But as I was about to lock up, the words of the bum from that morning came back to me. No, it wasn’t the bullshit about the “Yellow Sign”, it was what he said about “the book” and “the play”. I only had one book that was a play in the store. It was a copy of The King in Yellow, but it was kept in the back, locked up in a glass case with other equally rare — or in this case — abhorrent volumes. It was said that if read, or acted out, it would drive one mad. I don’t know if I really believed it, this information given to me by Mr. Blackburn, the old man that sold me the book along with the rest of the store. But knowing the psychological power of words, this was not far fetched. Letters are symbols, powerful symbols, that if arranged in a certain order can speak both to the conscious and subconscious, wreak havoc, alter lives, and change the world. Why couldn’t the words in that play drive one mad?
Later that night, with my mind still twisting and turning, I had dinner with my cousin, Janos. He had just returned from India where he had spent his honeymoon. His new wife is a fine piece of ass named Carla. Anyway, I, the Ipsissimus, have absolute recall, so the following will be the conversation I had with Janos verbatim. Understand it takes place in a dimly lit restaurant amongst the rich and affected of San Francisco who consumed meals they first have to take pics of to post online; high-dollar meals the women will just vomit up and the men will shit out. I won’t bother with any extraneous nonsense, just the dialogue.
Here’s how it went:
“How’s the store doing?”
“Not bad. Sold two rare volumes today.”
“Nice. Did you make a few bucks?”
“More than a few.”
Have you heard from Geneviève lately?”
“No. She won’t speak to me. Even blocked me on Facebook and Twitter.”
“Well . . . you did screw the housekeeper. You’re still not speaking to Nikolett, either, are you? You’ve got a habit of alienating the important women in your life.”
“How could I not fuck Lupe? She’s beautiful! You’d do the same if you were in my position.”
“No, I wouldn’t. Did you forget that I just got married?”
“Where did you go on your honeymoon?”
“India, you dumb-shit.”
“I know that, but where in India?”
“All over, but spent most of our time in Varanasi.”
“Cool. See any Aghori?”
“You mean the road-side attractions for gullible tourists?”
“Some Aghori, maybe.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“I think most of them are just fucked up losers who use the spiritual as an excuse. Even if some are legit, I don’t get the point.”
“It’s about going to extremes to reach a higher state of consciousness.”
“No, really. They think excess, living an extreme life-style, will allow them to achieve an enlightened state. It’s like the ancient Greek cult of Dionysus, or Bataille’s limit-experience. Divine madness, if you will.”
“So, I guess the junkies down in the Tenderloin must be buddhas then?”
What Janos said made me think of the bum in yellow from earlier this morning. Then it struck me like a blow to the forehead. I’ve been searching for my own spiritual apotheosis for years and now I had the answer! Divine madness!
The book. The play. The King in Yellow was the answer!
After dinner (which I paid for, even though Janos came up with the idea) I raced back to the bookstore and to that locked bookcase of the rare and abhorrent. I located the play on the second shelf between a copy of The Munich Manual of Demon Magic and The Grand Grimoire. On the old cloth cover was a design. I ran my fingers over the textured symbol which I guess was the “Yellow Sign”. I dared not open it, but when should I? Only when I was ready, ready to attempt my dive into the Abyss. Tonight might work. Why not tonight? It was a Friday, I’d have the weekend. Besides, this wasn’t the Abramelin Ritual I was performing, it wouldn’t take months. It was an original work. But still, certain safeguards were unavoidable.
I went back out into the main store-front. There wasn’t much room with the many shelves, but there was an old wooden display table a few feet in front of the check-out desk I could move after I removed the books and knick-knacks. This I did with little effort. Now I had roughly a 15 x 10 space of dark, hard-wood floor I could work with. Perfect. Grabbing chalk, candles and salts, I began prepping. This being an older building, the only window was that on the front-door, which was easily covered with the black cloth I had removed from the display table. Didn’t need the bums peeking in. I poured a line of salt just before the threshold, then I drew a triangle on the floor with the ubiquitous circle around it. Next came runes and sigils that held personal significance to me, filling most of the bare floor. Remember this is my ritual. How I prepare it, and how I perform it, is all up to me. Drawing the sigils took a few hours, because in some cases I had to grab a book or two to recharge my memory. When I had completed the sigils, I took three pillar candles, two red and one black, and positioned them at the three points of the triangle, the black candle to the west. I lit them, turned off the lights, and stripped down to my waist and sat in the triangle in a lotus position, The King in Yellow on the floor before me. I meditated for a good hour before I dared reached for that book. When I finally had the guts to do so, I opened it, flipped through the first few pages, then began to read.
At first I did not read it aloud, attempting to grasp what it was about. The play had three main characters: Cassilda, Camilla and someone simply called “The Stranger”, who I think is possibly the King in Yellow himself. When I got to Act 1, Scene 2 of the play, I read it aloud:
“Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
“Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
“Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
“Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
I fell silent and looked around. I felt okay and everything looked fine, my reality hadn’t morphed, or dissolved.
Okay, continue reading.
But before I could utter the next word I felt light-headed. Then came a rush throughout my body, beginning in my head, then my chest, then into my gut, as though I’d been grabbed and pulled down. I dropped the book and put my hands flat on the floor, bracing myself. God, it hurt! My legs kicked out. I knocked over a candle. I let out a scream as my body tightened and spasmed. It was as though gravity had grown stronger, stronger by ten fold, maybe, I don’t know, but I couldn’t take it any longer and blacked out.
My eyes have opened, but I do not see the bookstore, no, but a reality beyond all knowing. I am here and it is now, having just sent out the message, that which you have read. Oh, the sensation! I have done it! My soul swells, my awareness is wide, more open than all imagining. I am formless and can see in all directions all at once as though I am one great eye, one great pupil, I see all, all at once! Here is where I am. Here is who I am. I am the Ipsissimus! Greater than all the gods, those simple avatars of the archetypes, I am greater! Far greater! The Trimurty is but a slapstick comedy team compared to me, and Yahweh is a louse on my scrotum! I am even greater than the archetypes themselves! And their collective unconscious is but a small room filled with third-rate actors waiting to audition for parts in a play written by a hack. I’ve done it! From here I proclaim that the greatest of all goals has been accomplished! This, here, is where I am right now as I watch colors swirl, turn, dance. I watch the dance of the dense azure vapors play about like deep-sea tendrils, while tempestuous waves of violet crash against smokey vermilion shores. I have found eternity and we are one! I am what was before the Big Bang, and what will be after the Big Crush. Time has no meaning to me because space has no meaning to me! Space is a parted curtain that I have stepped through and onto this stage of limitless possibilities!
What? What is this?
Once again I feel a tug at my soul, a pulling down. Down! What? This can’t be! I am . . . I fall! I’m falling! What? How can this be! I fall, plummet! Colors all about me rushes upward! Rush upward! The panic! The panic! How can this be? Tearing! Tearing! I feel pain! How?! I am the Ipsissimus!
It stopped. I have stopped. All is still, cloudy, lead-colored clouds, a fog. I have form. I have a body. I am looking down. My body? I touch it. How? My feet are on the ground, slate-colored earth. How? I am watching as the fog clears, opens, parts. And I see about me a city. A city? A city of great onyx domes and monolithic structures, rude imitations of Brutalist architecture, and above is a pale sky of black stars and before me a placid lake beyond which sets twin suns! This can’t be! I am the Ipsissimus! This can’t be!
I hear something, like the flapping of sails. I am turning. I look up. There before me, floating high above, is a great being, massive, in a yellow robe, a hooded yellow robe of creases and wrinkles, flapping slowly, massive! Is it winged? I don’t know, it could be winged. Horror I feel! Horror beyond imagining! I scream! I am screaming! I shrink to my knees as my throat becomes raw? Why? Why am I screaming? It’s the pallid mask that the being wears, this great King in Yellow. I scream as it slowly removes that mask to reveal a face, a jaundiced face . . . a face that is a twisted mass of scar tissue, scar tissue that undulates, squirms, like a bowl filled with earthworms!