Fit for a King
It's good to be the king. Or maybe not.
KIng Alphonse twirls a few strands of spaghetti onto his fork.
"I like this spagehtti," he says, smiling. "It is much better than the spaghetti I had last week."
His Queen nods. "Yes, my Lord."
"There is something different about this spaghetti, though. What is it?"
His Queen smiles. "Acid."
Alphonse looks up at his Queen for a moment, and suddenly his face falls into his plate of spaghetti.
Every morning King Bertrand goes for a jog. His route is always the same. He goes through the outer portcullis, over the drawbridge, around his orchard, past his vineyard, takes the trail by his stables, comes around the stream, and finally heads back over the drawbridge.
The outer portcullis slams shut behind him. The inner portcullis has not yet been opened.
"Hie, guard!" shouts King Bertrand. "Open the gate and bring me a towel!"
He looks up to see molten lead pouring through the murder holes.
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he.
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl, and he called for his fiddlers three.
One shouted "Death to the King!" and stabbed him with a knife.
The council meeting is going longer than expected. King Darius scratches the back of his neck.
"Is there a problem, Your Royal Highness?" asks The Chamberlain.
"No problem," says Darius. "Please continue." He scratches the back of his neck, and his hand comes away bloody.
"Perhaps you should have that checked," says a general.
"I'll be fine," says Darius.
Boy, was he wrong.
Too much to eat again. Too many pills again. He heads for the bathroom, and sits down.
"Are you okay in there, Elvis?"
"The world is round!" shouts Cristoph.
"The world is flat!" shouts Ferdinand.
"The world is round!" shouts Cristoph.
"The world is flat!" shouts Ferdinand.
Queen Isabella raises her hands and screams. "Enough! Both of you!"
"The world is round!" shouts Cristoph.
"Would you care to stake your life on it?" growls Ferdinand.
"Would you care to stake your own life on it?" responds Cristoph.
Three ships and eight months later, Cristoph returned with his proof. King Ferdinand caught something from the natives Cristoph brought back. Isabella buried him two weeks later.
King George planted his sword in the dragon, placed one foot on its chest, and he gave his best royal pose. "How is this?" he asked.
"Perfect!" shouted The Royal Artist. He started a few thumbnails.
"You'll clean up the blood on my tunic and leave out the gouge on my arm, right?" asked George. "Not to mention the ballista bolts and the poison grain we left at the cave's mouth."
"Certainly," said the Artist. "We can take license with this so that your bold spirit shines through."
"Wonderful," said George. "Simpl--" He wobbled for a moment.
"Mind that you stay still for a while," said the Artist. "Once I finish a few sketches I can start work with the oils back at the castle."
"I am still," said George. "I think that this dragon may not be--"
Three cheers for King Harold the Unbeaten!
"Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" shouts the crowd.
Harold tips his lance to the crowd and lowers the visor on his helmet. His horse flicks its tail and they are off, heading full speed through the fairgrounds towards their opponent.
"For the glory of England!" he shouts.
"What did he say?" asks someone.
"No bloody idea," responds someone else. "Shouldn't try to talk with his visor down. Bloody fool, if you ask me."
In a few moments, Harold will no longer be unbeaten. It takes the priests more than a day to pull all of the lance's spliters out of his head.
"Another bottle!" shouts Ivan.
"Another bottle!" shouts his troops. They toast their fearless leader with their bottles of vodka, and they all begin to sing and dance.
"It is late," says Ivan's advisor. "It is cold. You are a king first and a soldier second."
"What is a victory if you do not celebrate it, my simple friend?" shouts Ivan. His troops laugh and continue to drink.
"What is a victory that you do not live to tell tales of it to your grandchildren?" responds the advisor.
"I have had enough of your whining," growls Ivan. "Tonight is a night for celebrating. Now leave me be, I must make room for more to drink." Ivan stumbles to the edge of the cliff and lowers his breeches.
"I piss on you, cowards of the Ukraine!" he shouts. When he finishes, he leans down to check that he has not soiled his uniform.
He falls over the cliff.
Jolo is running.
Jolo runs through the jungle as fast as he can. He has already shed his leopard cape and leopard-tooth necklace and nearly everything else.
The strange men toss a net at him and Jolo is caught.
One of them puts his hand on Jolo's face and checks his teeth. "This one will fetch a fair price in the Carolinas."
Another binds his wrists and he is dragged off to the ship. He is tossed in a hold on the third deck. He sees other members of his tribe. Some of them are already sick.
Jolo never sees the Carolinas.
"Beauty, my ass," thinks the gigantic creature. " 'Twas all those damned airplanes shooting me."
Louis looked at his reflection in the rain bucket. Gone was the gentle, powdered face and wig. What stared back at him was a horror. Mud and grime on his forehead. His hair was tangled and greasy. His face had three days of stubble on it. To appear as a mere commoner! He could not stand this!
"In my heart, I am still King," he mumbled. He gripped the bars of his cell and shouted. "Guard! Guard!"
"What is it now?" asked the guard, carrying a burlap sack.
"My face is a fright," said Louis. "Bring me soap and a blade."
The guard shrugged. "Keep your noise down. Soon enough, we'll bring you to the blade." He reached into the burlap sack and pulled out the head of Marie.
If not for the blood, Louis swore that she had been allowed to make herself presentable before her final moments.
The faerie approached Midas later that afternoon. The foolish king was sitting on a golden log, surrounded by golden food, golden clothes, a stream frozen in gold, and his golden daughter.
"If only..." he muttered.
"I bring respite from your troubles," said the faerie. "I shall lift the spell. Whatever this water touches shall be restored to life."
Midas looked up at the faerie and cleared his eyes. "Can this be true?" he said. "I have learned my lesson, and I thank you for releasing me from this curse." He reached out to shake the faerie's hand...
Which turned to gold. The pitcher of water fell from the golden faerie's hand. Midas reached out to catch it.
It turned to gold.
Several days later, Midas's body was found in the forest. In his hand was the golden knife which had slashed his throat.
Susan bit her lower lip and worried. Should she, or shouldn't she? She sat on the toilet in her tiny bathroom and considered.
"Let me go!" she had shouted. But it was no good. They were in one of the palaces in the country, where nobody ever went these days. She struggled at the ropes on her wrists and legs.
"I must have an heir," said the King between the times he came to her.
Except for the last time. Then, he had said with a weak voice, "We will name him Nathan." That was right before he had died.
"Name who Nathan?" she asked him. But, of course, there was no response.
After two days, Susan got free of the ropes. She ran to the bathroom and threw up. After a few weeks, she knew for certain.
Susan reached for the hook on the bathroom door and took down the hanger.
March 15, 1778.
The mystery grows worse, I'm afraid. Until now, we weren't certain, but this most recent discovery makes any doubt unlikely.
We found another leg at the swamp's edge last night. This one had a royal slipper on its foot, and there can be no mistaking. All of the Royal Fishermen have been instructed to check their nets regularly for any further remains of our dear departed King Oliver.
Especially the hands. That ring has been in our family for generations.
Philip is angry with the time it is taking for his workers to finish his castle. Two years and barely any progress! He orders them to increase the pace of their work. The Royal Architect raises a fuss, but he is quickly silenced by the Executioner.
A year later, and the workers are a blur. The castle raises itself around Philip at a pace more agreeable to him. At this rate, he will hold court in his new castle by next fall. He smiles and spits on the grave of the Architect.
It is that same smile he wears when a flying buttress collapses on the inner courtyard.
"Not enough mortar," mumbles the foreman.
"Captain Quentin!" shouted the radio man. "There's an urgent message for you!" He ducked as a line of fire strafed the runway.
"There's no time!" yelled back Quentin from the cockpit. "Spotters have more of them over the coastline."
"It's your father, he's--"
"When I get back, soldier!" shouted Quentin. He slid the canopy closed and taxied his plane down the runway to join up with the rest of the squadron.
The radioman ran back to the base.
"Did you tell him?" asked Commander Briggs.
"I tried to, sir, but he cut me off."
"Can you fix the radio?" asked Commander Briggs.
"It's a mess," said the radioman, picking through the debris that was once the base radio. "Right after news of the bombs leveling the palace came through, too."
"Well, let's hope that His Majesty comes back for his coronation on one piece."
Catesby tries to hold his liege back. "Withdraw, my Lord. I will help you to a horse."
Richard continues to babble incoherently. All Catesby can understand is something about his kingdom for a horse. Richard draws his sword and rushes headlong into the crowd where Richmond lies waiting.
"This is not good," says Catesby. "First he starts shouting about ghosts, then he starts going berserker-mad. What next?"
Wise King Solomon rubs his chin. "For the last time, which of you two women is the mother of this child?"
"I am!" shouts the first woman.
"I am!" shouts the second woman.
Solomon looked at the water-clock. Nearly an hour wasted on this one. "Perhaps both of you are the mother." He brought out a knife. "In that case, it would make sense to carve this baby in two and give each of you half."
"No!" shouts the first woman. She rushes to the baby.
Solomon grins. The mother rushes to protect her child. He dismisses the two women.
Later that night, the first woman sneaks into his bedchambers. "Threaten my baby, will you?" she hisses.
How funny, thinks Solomon. That's the same knife I used this afternoon.
Prince Terrence walks up to the corpse of his father and grins. He is not as dumb as his father once thought. He was smart enough to murder his father and not get caught. He picks up the crown and puts it on his head.
"King Terrence," he says. He laughs, and the hallway echoes laughter back at him. "I crown thee King Terrence." He is overcome with delight, and then overcome with exhaustion.
His last thought is that the contact poison was in the lining of the crown.
The hallway continues to laugh at him for a while longer.
Grunt. Grunt. Grunt.
He is bigger than everyone else. If anybody acts up, he hits them with his club. He leads the hunt every night. He has many wives.
He is King Ug.
Not that the bear in this cave cares.
The first panel shows Prince Valiant putting the crown on his head.
The second panel shows him drawing his sword.
The third panel shows the crowd, shouting "Long live King Valiant!"
The publisher looks it over and shrugs. "This is what you call making a change? Nobody reads serial cartoon strips anymore. They all want one-panel funnies, like The Far Side or Bizarro. If they want a story, they go see a movie."
He tosses the storyboard into the trash.
He has his mother's eyes, thought the reporter. Both he and his brother.
"William! William!" shouted the reporter among dozens. "Tell us how you feel right now! Is your father alright? Was Henry with him at the time?"
William put his hand in front of his face to block out the cameras and the lights. He ran for the garage, jumped in his car, and raced off.
Two minutes later, it was a smoking ruin by the side of the road to London.
The reporter cried in horror. He had his mother's bad luck with Mercedes, too.
Xerxes the battle-mad!
Xerxes the Bloodthirsty!
Xerxes the Slayer of Hundreds! Thousands!
Xerxes laughs and licks the blood from his sword.
Xerxes th-- "Ouch!" he shrieks. He holds his wounded tongue.
Xerxes the Hemophiliac!
The doctor rushes to the Royal Surgical Center.
"There's not much time, Doctor," says a nurse. "His car exploded after it went into the ravine."
"How about the brain?" asked the Doctor. "Good readings?"
"They're stable enough for the transplant," says the nurse.
The Doctor looks at his clipboard. "Looks like we need a full body this time. Can't be red or blue. Bring out the clone with the yellow label."
Farewell, King Yellow Label, thinks the nurse. She turns a valve and the tank with the yellow label begins to open.
King Zachary the mad invited the chess master to dinner.
"I am sorry for your loss," he said, patting the old chess master's shoulder. "All shall be clear in a moment, though. Shall we play?"
"We shall," said the chess-master. "There is nothing else for me to do now."
Zachary led him up a glass staircase to an iron door and opened it. Beyond was a scene of blood and horror. Dozens upon dozens of corpses lay on the floor, mutilated and slashed with grid patterns.
"They would not remain still when I marked them," said Zachary.
"What?" breathed the chess-master.
"For the board," said Zachary. "You see? They'd knock the pieces around."
The chess-master walked through the carnage, stunned. He then bent to one knee and stared into the face of his daughter.
"I could always modify the pieces," said Zachary. "I could make them like corncob holders so you could stick them into the board. But I'm afraid that the screaming would be an unwelcome distraction from the game. Best to do it this way."
"You monster," said the chess master. He brushed his hand over her face and closed her frightened eyes for the last time.
"Her?" asked Zachary. "You wish to play on that one? Fine. Let me get the pieces--"
The chess master shrieked with rage, grabbed Zachary by the throat, and tossed him down the stairs. The stairs shattered into a million shards of glass.
"I got the one about King Kong," said the Editor. "Nice. But what the heck was this one about Zachary?"
"It's something from college," said the Author. "My degree is in Biology. I was always amused by that little mnemonic we used to remember the classifications."
"Classifications?" asked the Editor.
"Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species," said the Author. "Some folks used Kings Play Chess on Fat Girls Stomachs and others used Kings Play Chess on Falling Glass Stairs. I combined them into one story. See?"
"You're one sick bastard," said the Editor.
Laurence Simon (firstname.lastname@example.org) Is an HTML developer and a research producer in Houston.He is known for traveling everywhere with his lucky Slinky in his pocket, and will hastily produce this object if challenged or threatened.
InterText stories written by Laurence Simon: "Shipping and Handling Extra" (v5n3), "Fit for a King" (v9n1).
InterText Copyright © 1991-2000 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 9, Number 1 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1999 Laurence Simon.