The People's King

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Science Fiction, pretty crazy imagery. I'm not spoiling the story, read it if you want to know what happens - it's not too long.

Submitted: July 16, 2019

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Submitted: July 16, 2019

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“So, General - you must tell me.” Pope Augustine spoke delicately, his old and weather-worn hands tented casually before his upturned face. “Exactly how many of them have you killed?” Brandon Oroyo looked down at the long, ornate table - through the tobacco smoke and past the serving trays filled to the edge, overflowing with delicacies abound. Apples as deep and as red as wine, grapes the size of golf balls, cantaloupe sliced in two, filled with creamy white goat cheese. Real steak - cow’s meat - not rat, or possum, or snake. Great ribs of it, laid out and copiously slathered in a smooth, red glaze. It was a moment before the General was able to regain his composure, his mind momentarily adrift, in awe of the royal spread laid out before him. Drawing deeply from his cigar, and beginning at last through the clouds of smoke that preceded it exhalation, Brandon Oroyo met the eyes of his king, and with a sigh, finally spoke. “More than I could even begin to count, your Holiness.” Looking down again, the General seemed to deflate for a moment, before returning to his master's gaze. “Thousands of them. Beyond that…”

“God be praised!” His Holiness Pope Augustine shouted suddenly over the stillness of the night, raising his fist into the air and smashing it down upon that last, lavish buffet. Pistachios and macadamias scattered helter-skelter from the blow, littering themselves upon the vast, finely carpeted floor. From the darkness, three young boys dashed forth - dressed in their finest formal wear - dustpans and floor brushes clenched dutifully in their white-knuckled hands. The Pope looked around himself for a moment and then laughed, hard and loud. Returning his attention to the General, at last, he spoke. “That many, Brandon?” He smiled again, a brief twinkle of… something settling itself for a moment in his old and wizened eye. “General, I mean.” Pope Augustine let loose another brief, snorting laugh. “So many, that you couldn’t even count.” It was a statement, not a question. The General looked down and nodded. The Pope smiled, wide. “Good, good.” Saint Augustine muttered, more to himself than to the man sitting uncomfortably before him. And then, as if he had just remembered there was such a thing. “And the previous nights culling, what of it, General?” Brandon Oroyo looked up, again meeting Pope Augustine's small, watery eyes. “Might they be slowing, do you think?” The Pope’s tone was concerned - but his eyes still held that strange quality, as if within them, something was hiding - just waiting to pop out and say boo. “Or are our efforts in vain?”

At this the General’s attention snapped forward, his posture straightened and his eyes raised to meet those of his kings. “Never, your Holiness.” Grave seriousness echoing from the solemn words. “More progress has been made in this past year than I’ve seen made since this all began.” Staring directly into the Pope’s eyes now. “We have to fight them.” The two men stared into each other's eyes for a moment before the General finished. “We have to win.”

At the General’s words, Pope Augustine's face cracked into a broad, toothy smile. “And we will, my son.” And for the first time since the General had been brought up to join him, the small tent that the Pope’s fingers were still comprised of fell, as his Holiness reached out one long, spindly white finger, accompanied as if to become some wicked incestile pincer by his grizzled and well-wrinkled thumb. Searching for a moment, the shaking appendage plucked one, dark purple and perfectly bulbous grape from its vine, and plunked it casually into its owner's salvation waiting mouth. A sigh of appreciation wafted warmly from deep within the old man, and for a moment, he closed his eyes. Uneasily, the General spoke up. “Your Holiness, I-” But before he could continue, one long, bent, spindly finger was raised, high above Pope Augustine's head. Finishing what was in his mouth, the Pope merely looked towards Brandon Oroyo, a question clearly dancing in his grizzled visage. The General waited, silent, for his Holiness to commence.

“And what of the effort, my child?” The Pope finally returned, his gaze held firm to the young Generals own. “How close might we be - to the end?”

Sometimes, that was all it took. A reminder. And he was back in thick of it. Ankle deep in mud, and guts, and viscera. Fallen corpses piling knee high as they slowly released their innards, one rolling viscous glob at a time, down towards the earth to meet the rest of their rotting, fetid selves. There were screams coming from every direction around him - the wretched howls of the men already dead, mixed in turn with the ferocious battle cries of his compatriots. “General, duck!” Master Sergeant Dillon Smith was barreling towards him, his illustrious, ornate armor glistening brilliantly in the waning mid-afternoon sun. Great swathes of torn and haggard flesh hung loosely from each of his mighty, winged pauldrons, and the silver radiance of his armor was marred in places, replaced instead by a torrent of thick gelatinous red. Blood was still dripping slowly from the gargantuan man in places, as he rushed towards his General, barreling him to the side to face what had so nearly snuck up upon him.

From the earth, and the guts, and the blood where he had landed, the Brandon Oroyo looked back at where he had just a moment ago stood, and froze in fear. A great, wriggling mass stood to meet them. An amalgam of various limbs, and fat, and sinew. Like some great swirling vortex of sickness and blight, that had cast itself down upon some unsuspecting family and had turned them finally to one. Legs and arms jutted forth from the undulating thing, of all shapes and colors, each vying for solid birth - all aching to move their aggregation forth. From deep within the wriggling mass was the unmistakable sound of the dead man’s scream, high and drawn out, accompanied grotesquely by the snap snap snap of another half a dozen set of ravenous jaws.

Before the wretched thing, the Sergeant stood - his crimson-stained Bastard Sword raised high above his twisted and determined visage. “Die, you foul creature!” He roared wildly, as his blade came crashing home into the creatures gelatinous, gooey flesh. “And return home, to the light!” Greats dollops of heavy, purple blood rushed forth from the twisting, amalgamous mess. As the thing bled, a dozen rotting mouths began to scream, all in together as one. The sound was heartbreaking. Devastating like nothing else that General Brandon Oroyo had heard up until that day - and nine years into all of this - he had heard some horrible things.

Before him, from where he still lay, struggling to free his own heavy armor from the mucilaginous composition of blood and guts that coated every inch of the battlefields bare earth, the General could do naught but watch. Watch as the Sergeant saved him, as he slashed and hacked at the eviscerated writhing mass of limbs and intestines that still wretched itself before them. The General has always been the first to say it, Jus ad bellum, for it was a just cause. A fight that they could win. Or so he had thought. But after that day, after seeing that creature - what they had become, he was not sure what he thought. Not anymore.

“General Oroyo?” the Pope spoke in a patient tone, but his eyes were suddenly sharpened - as if searching for something - within the man who sat before him. Awakened from the reverie, the General responded at once. “The end.” The Pope merely chuckled, but his eyes did not change. They darted across the young General’s face as if searching for something that could not be seen - not at least, by any normal man. It was as if the Pope had gone, and at that moment become replaced by nothing other than some great and terrible eye, vying for the nothing other than the basis of reality, pulsating and oozing its choroid, and sclera down and through itself as it drifted silently along, unblinkingly and mercilessly towards the truth. “The end?” He responded finally, sizing General Brandon Oroyo up, and smiling that broad, toothy grin. And before he could answer again, Pope Augustine was on his feet and beckoning for his servants to come. “I think you might be right, General. The end is nigh, is it not?” The hardness had disappeared from beneath the Pope’s eyelids, replaced instead by something else. “Come now, take the General back to his quarters.” The Pope gestured again, those long, pale, spider leg fingers dancing delicately in the still air of the room as he did. Addressing his servants now, the Pope finished. “And make sure you send our General home with something to eat - I saw him eyeing the beef, didn’t I?” He looked again into the young General’s still cloudy and bemused eyes. “Rest up, my friend.” Pope Augustine smiled, as he looked carefully into his General’s, murky, worry sick eyes. Eyes like those of a lost dog, beaten - and afraid. “There’s still much work to be done, yet, after all.” The General gazed back into his Pope’s eyes for a final time. “And who better, my dear general, than you to do it?”


© Copyright 2019 Matthew Munsey. All rights reserved.

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