Monday, October 17, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven

Once upon a time there was a kingdom ruled by a king without flesh.

You find the entrance to this kingdom is a pair of gates, rusted and broken down. Beside the gates, there once was a sign that read 'IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE DEAD.' However, time has eroded the sign, wearing down so many letters that now it seems to read 'EMBRACE THE DEAD.' You walk through the ruined gates and into the kingdom proper.

At first, you see no buildings, just mounds of earth. Soon, the mounds of earth become larger and become mounds of earth and stone, tumuli, barrows for the buried. These barrows become bigger and bigger and then soon they are cairns, mounds of stones four feet high. The cairns go away, however, and become simple markers. Tombstones made of natural fieldstone, then soon granite, limestone, marble, sandstone, slate. There are no names carved into these tombstones, however -- no inscriptions, no epitaphs. Nothing to mark who was buried here or why.

Soon the gravestones start to become larger and change their shape, becoming more and more elaborate. They form into crosses, stars, anchors, crowns, horseshoes, skulls, laurels, hourglasses, and even angels, their hands covering their weeping faces.

The elaborate tombstones come to an end and beyond them is a field of urns. Row upon row of urns, the ashes within safely tucked away. Still no sign of names or dates of birth or death. There are urns made of wood, of stone, or metal. Iron urns and bronze urns and even urns gilded in gold. The urnfields end and after comes the vaults, the monuments, the crypts and shrines and sepulchres, row after row after row of them.

Astonished, you walk among this kingdom, where you have not yet seen one living soul, surrounded by stones and the dead.

The crypts get larger and larger as you walk past, growing into mausoleums and burial vaults and then, suddenly, they come to an end. No more buildings, no more structures, no more urns or tombstones or cairns. Instead, in front of you, are huge stones, megaliths, tilted so that they stand around creating a pair of triangles. How someone could have moved them into that shape, you do not know.

Inside the shade of the megaliths, you see something move. Curious about what would live in a place that seems to worship the dead, you walk forward inside the triangle that the megaliths have made. As soon as your foot steps within, he appears to you -- a man, around your height, wearing dark clothes strewn with dirt. He must be the one who digs the graves, you think. His face is covered with a strange mask, probably to help block out the smell of decay and rot.

He looks at you and you realize that you are wrong, so very wrong. This is no man. This is the Fleshless King.

You move backwards, trying to get away from the Fleshless King, but you trip over a stone and hit your head upon the edge of one of the megaliths. As darkness overtakes your vision, you see the Fleshless King approach.

You awake inside a wooden coffin as you hear the sound of dirt raining down. The Fleshless King has provided you with a single match and, as you strike it, you see the words etched above you: embrace him.

As the earth covers your grave, you feel the knife beside you and you realize: you are going to die. Now you can only decide how you will die - suffocating in the dark or by your own hand?

You grip the knife and decide.

Above you, the Fleshless King stands and waits for the dead.

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