EHM Chapter 2

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It was a long time ago.

Ten years ago, Randolph Carter proposed to me.
He was a horror story novelist and a favorite of the literary world.
Despite his brilliant intelligence and honesty, we had an argument about a year into our happy marriage.

That night, my husband disappeared, leaving behind only a note.
It had said, “Emily, I think we need to spend some time away from each other.”

One day.

Two days.

My wait soon became a week.
Worried, I searched everywhere for my husband, but I couldn’t find out where he went.
About three months after officially reporting his disappearance to the police, I was informed of what happened.

“Mrs.
Carter, the body of your husband has been found.”

To be honest, I don’t quite remember how I’ve been since then.
Half of the time I missed him, other times I hated him.
Every day, I felt sadness, hatred, and a sense of loss.
A few years later, I recalled a shocking memory… My past life as a Korean woman who lived in the 2020s.

***

That was probably four years ago.
I only told my one true friend about my previous life.
She has always been with me since I met her at the North London Girls’ School when I was fifteen.
She supported me as I was in the depths of despair from Randolph’s death.

She was the beautiful woman before me, Helena Blavatsky.

“Your previous life… Ah, you mean the one before you became Emily Carter?” Her response, which might’ve sounded absurd to others, was serious.
Her skin was the color of coffee milk because she was born into an aristocratic family of Russian descent while also being one-fourth gypsy.

“Technically, it wasn’t the past but the future.”

My future self lived a very normal life.
The memory slowly permeated in the head of me, Emily Carter, who lived in the 1890s.
I realized there was something odd.
This wasn’t the England found in history textbooks.

Queen Victoria still ruled England, but there were all sorts of discrepancies.
For example, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was not published.
This was because his voyage on the H.M.S Beagle, which had the greatest influence on the book, never happened.
The region in the South Pacific was called the Sea of Evil among sailors and was still a topic of taboo.

More importantly, there were people who shouldn’t otherwise exist.

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Such “fictional characters” had different roles from their original counterparts.
I’ve never met him before, but Dr.
Victor Frankenstein is famous in London academia.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing held a full-time position at the University of Oxford.
And one day, I heard Phileas Fogg had an audience with Her Majesty.
Yes, the Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days.

“That’s fascinating.”

“Do you really believe me, Helena?”

She smiled as if bewildered by my response.
“Of course, Emily.
What you’re saying can’t be false.”

“But—”

“I believe everything you say.”

“…”

Her words warmed my heart.

“In addition, the spiritual world has recently conducted experiments that hypnotize people to remember their past lives.
Why wouldn’t I believe you?”

It was like speaking to a female scholar at the forefront of mysticism.
Helena was born as a well-off daughter and married at an early age; however, she divorced her husband after two years due to differences in their personalities.

Helena thrust herself into the study of esotericism and Spiritualism and had several amazing achievements in just a few years.
She also created an association named after herself by founding a new religion called Theosophy.

“Also… have you thought about Mr.
Dulles’s suggestion?”

When I looked up, I saw a manila envelope in her hand.
I remembered the contents of the “suggestion” I had forgotten a while back.

A few months after Randolph died, my issues weren’t just limited to my mental state.
All Randolph left was a house on the verge of collapsing; my financial situation was quite bad.
My husband’s acquaintances tried their best to help me.
One of them was Mr.
Dulles, a close friend of Randolph’s and his editor.

“I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do, but…”

He introduced me to a manuscript proofreading job for Weird Fiction, a magazine he works for that focuses on horror stories.
Thanks to him, I was able to scrape by.
After a while, I published Child in the Dark, and because of its popularity, I was able to make the transition from writing hobbyist to full-time writer.
Mr.
Dulles was now my editor.

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“…Are you talking about Randolph’s posthumous work?”

Mr.
Dulles sent me an urgent message the other day.
“Mrs.
Carter, Randolph’s manuscript has been found,” it said.

A manila envelope with no address was sent to the editorial office of Weird Fiction.
It contained a stack of papers and a note.

[Give this to my wife, Emily Carter.
She is the only who one can read this work.]

It was written in the handwriting of my dead husband, Randolph.

Mr.
Dulles, who had opened the envelope, was surprised to see the manuscript’s title.
“This is…”

It was the piece Randolph worked on until his death. The King in Yellow was a two-act play, which would be published posthumously.

My husband, who often referenced Plato, had said, “Emily, this is different from my other writings.”

“What do you mean?”

“If my previous works are the shadows on the walls of the cave… then this one is something under the sun, the true reality.”

Randolph had frequent conversations with the people around him, such as myself and Mr.
Dulles, when he worked.
I also had a secret that involved The King in Yellow.

“When I’m done, you’ll be the first one to see it.”

Was he trying to keep his promise? First, he left me all alone, and now…

“Emily?”

“…What?”

“Are you all right?”

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I was in the midst of an emotional memory, but Helena’s voice brought me back to the present.
I nodded.
“I’m fine.”

“If you’re still struggling, I can read it with you.”

“No, it’s okay.”

Helena was worried, but she took the manuscript out of the manila envelope and handed it to me.

“Thank you, Helena.”

She nodded and left my study.
After the door closed behind her, I stared at the title page for The King in Yellow.

“Randy, who is the King in Yellow?”

“Well, that’s…”

One day, I had asked about it.
Randolph hesitated before answering.

“A master of worlds who exists among the stars.”

“Is that the fantasy setting you created?”

Randolph smiled awkwardly at my remark.

I slowly turned the page of the manuscript, recalling the memories of that time.

[The King in Yellow by Randolph Carter, based on the play by Almuk al-Aspar.]

I didn’t know it was based on an original work.
I turned the page again and saw a section called “The History of This Work.”

[The King in Yellow was a play written in the third century B.C.
by Almuk al-Aspar, an Arab writer, and later translated by the ancient Greek poet Andronikos Michelis in 830 A.D.
It was well-known throughout Europe.
Most who encountered this work had a terrible ending.
For example, Michelis suffered from madness and hallucinations.
The last words he said before his death were about a “golden skeleton trying to kill him.”]

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[Francis, a monk who was the first to translate the play into Latin, saw a stray dog and claimed it was a “king with a pale mask.” He was bitten to death, but later it was revealed the dog had no teeth.]

[The contents of the play itself are blasphemous, and the rumors surrounding it have led the Eastern Orthodox Church to ban The King in Yellow.
However, thanks to some curious scholars, the work managed to survive.]

After that, the section spoke of other miserable ends met by those who read the play.
And at the very end, there were “warnings”.

[Please don’t translate the play anymore!]

[The King in Yellow is not an ordinary play.]

[I solemnly swear that whoever adapts this work will not be responsible for the situation that occurs as a result of not heeding the above.]

I was slightly unnerved until I saw Randolph’s handwriting at the very bottom of the page.

[To Emily, whom I dearly love more than my own life.]

A wave of indescribable emotions washed over my heart.
It’s been almost ten years since his death, so I thought everything was okay now… I continued reading.

[Emily, you must finish reading The King in Yellow.
If you trust me, if you truly love me… Please read the play and ignore the “warnings” written here.]

Should I do it? Or should I abide by those absurd warnings of those who suffered great misfortune from reading this play?

I thought about it for a while.
The “History of This Work” section could be something made up by Randolph.
He enjoyed creating ghost stories, living up to his reputation as a horror story novelist.
Considering his taste, it’s highly likely the purpose of that section was to enhance the overall reading experience.

I turned the page and began to read the first line.

[O great king, worthy of respect.
He who is the source of chaos and evil…]

I realized something was strange.

“It’s…”

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