Author's Note: Don't own anything by HBO or the Nic Pizzolatto - just an admirer of the show.I read The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers and then imagined how I'd like to see this mini-series end with that book in mind. Nihilistic fun for all. Now for some Ligotti...


The Reign of the King in Yellow

"There are psychologists now who think that evolution has allowed us to mentalize, to think about thinking, to empathize in order to co-exist. Imagine humans 10,000 years ago – we're not equipped to survive in the wild, in our hunter-gatherer past. We have no natural defensive or offensive physical abilities – no claws, no teeth, no natural armor." Rustin Cohle pinches the pale and thin skin on his forearm, looks at the reporter, young, naïve, gives him a nonchalant shrug, a sly grin. "We're not the fastest or the strongest. We're the only ones who need to cover ourselves up. We're vulnerable naked. So what do we do? What did we do? We cooperated – that's what we did – at a level unmatched in nature. Our brains developed an ability to understand each other, to imagine walking in another man's shoes, to co-exist for mutual gain and that allowed us to compete. The lower level items in our hierarchy of needs could be met, you see? – food, shelter, survival of the species. We could work together to hunt, to farm, to build, to defend." Rust sits a moment, quiet, looks past the room and imagines. His face goes from wonder to jaded. "You know, I might just consider that our golden era because since then we've been doing nothing but trying to tick off the list of items from the upper levels, tick them off like a grocery list. But every other level in the hierarchy of needs but the base level is just self-awareness bullshit. You don't need any of it to survive. It's hubris to think that improving our minds could improve our lives. We've gone off the reservation, partner. All we've done since then is to set ourselves apart from nature because we don't believe we need it anymore."

He butts out his cigarette after lighting another from the smoldering end, takes a long, deep drag and sits back in his chair, smirks. "That's right – we don't believe we need it anymore. We can buy our food at the store, heat comes out of a wire directly into our houses and fresh water comes from a pipe. All the cooperation now happens behind the scenes, apart from us. We're wearing a mask as a society, one that hides our true nature – the scrounging, scrapping mammal. And with this mask of self-worth and self-reliance – everything coming to us bottled and labeled – well, where's the need for empathy then, for cooperation? Huh? Where's the need to understand your neighbor? He's not going to watch out for your family for you if you die or go hunting with you if you run out of food. It's all about self-improvement now. The foundation is crumbling around us in the race for this self-awareness that is a fable of our own making. That higher ground doesn't exist. And now we've stopped exercising the one," here he holds up a single finger, the cigarette wedged near the webbing between it and his middle finger, "…the one advantage we had over everything else – empathy. We've lost it. It's a mistake, a loop of fantasy built on fantasy." He shakes his head, blinks slowly, and leans forward to aim that finger at his audience. "You're doomed." He deliberately points the finger back at himself. "I'm for sure doomed. Better a quick end, don't you think?"

Rustin smiles because he knows the reporter is squirming. He knows the reporter is thinking about the next hour, not this one.

The camera is still running, recording for eternity the sound and sight of ashes falling from Rust's cigarette, of the chair groaning as he sits back against the metal frame, his hand brushing against the metal table, brushing away the ashes, the breath running out of the reporter as he gathers his courage for the next question.

The camera records the next question.

"You've maintained your innocence throughout the trial and the appeals. Now – today – would you change your statement?" The reporter swallows hard, has trouble keeping his voice even. "There's no chance now for a stay of execution. The governor has washed his hands of it…of you."

Rust holds the nervous eyes, holds the mirror up. "So, you're suggesting that I have nothing to lose by telling the truth. Or maybe you're suggesting I should," he waves a hand dismissively, "…save my soul by confessing. A confession would sell some advertising time, wouldn't it?"

Rust smacks his lips together, it might sound thoughtful from any other man but from this one it's all disdain and futility. He huffs, gets his face right across the table into the reporter's face who tries desperately to look calm, to not back down now under the gaze of eyes that have seen horrors, that hold the promise of seeing more.

"We're none of us innocent," says Rust. "We're all complicit in this existence, this aberration of nature." He pulls back again, lights another cigarette with the ends of the last. "Though I didn't kill those girls, if that's what you're asking." He breathes smoke into the room. "They wouldn't let you bring in any beer, huh?"

"Uh, no."

"Couldn't get any beer last time either, then. Won't be able to get any the next time. We've done this before, you and I. A thousand-thousand times. We'll be doing it again, a thousand-thousand times." He motions for the prison guard. "I'm done here."

"But you promised me fifteen minutes."

Rust blinks again, slowly. "You're collecting promises from a dead man?" He huffs again.

The recording ends.

Marty stares at the screen, chews on his lip. "That's it? He didn't say anything else after? You're not hiding away some tantalizing piece of evidence that proves him guilty once and for all, beyond a doubt?"

One of the detectives shakes his head and Marty stares at him until it's uncomfortable then he jabs a thick finger onto the file in front of him. "This has defined my life, this case, this…" He presses his lips together, angry. "Why are you bringing all this up again? What are you hoping to get by making me watch that? I saw it already before, the unabridged version, when it was made twelve years ago before Rust was..." His face screws up, unable to finish the statement.

"The unabridged version?"

"You haven't seen it…all of it?" Marty raises his eyebrows in disbelief. "Oh, Rust… He slags everyone, and I mean everyone – the detectives working the reopened case at the time, the governor, the press, the church, his mother, your mother, everyone." He winces. "Everyone but me."

"Why not you?"

"Damned if I know. The man was an unfathomable pain in the ass." Marty drops his head. "I'm too old for this shit. I have grandchildren now, you understand? I don't want any part of it."

"We'd like your opinion on something that's come up."

The air in the room stills, stales, like the scene they're in now has been locked in place, the dust settled and now disturbed again, and it would settle again and be disturbed again, a room where insanity exists alongside sane horror at the world.

"You've found another body, haven't you? There's another victim."

He nods before they do. The words existed before, will repeat themselves, futility living.

He has to ask, "Old or…recent?"

"Recent, very recent."


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