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life

The King that Fell

Imagine, if you will, a king. A mighty ruler, a keen follower of Machiavelli and thus feared much more than loved and very clever indeed. Of course, being clever is only ever measured by the breadth and depth in which intelligence is defined and this king had come to live in a half-mirrored world of self-validation and greed. Seeing only his own will reflected back to him from those mortally afraid to do anything other than obey, the tapestry of his dominion began to unravel around him and even as he failed to observe it.

He had lived for so long in opulence and luxury that he barely even understood what it meant to suffer, to be poor, or to in any real sense of the words – to be human. It was not difficult for such a man to command wars upon innocents, to direct murders, brutalising and terrorising of distant peoples, to lie and deceive his own nation when he was no longer at all like them in his own mind. He had ascended, in his mind, to a higher plane quite naturally absolved of responsibility, quite unburdened of conscience or guilt.

He would quite calmly lead his own long-suffering nation through the gates of hell because their suffering was no longer his own. He had become so far abstracted from their petty squabbling over food and shelter that with a wave of his hand he would quite equally cut down the small as easily and calmly as he would crush the mighty. His world of wealth and power commanded vast armies and terrible violence upon a whim and no one dared question him lest they and their families were erased from life and all memory of existence.

One day before meeting his gathered generals, jesters and courtiers he was leaving his chambers and preparing to address they wide eyes of his frightened people as they gazed up at him from the royal audience hall far below when, stepping across a bear rug on the floor his right foot slightly caught on the crumpled fur behind the animal’s mighty skull, and rolling his ankle, he lost his balance at the top of a long flight of marble stairs. A quirk of fate or random chance was all it took and he fells sideways off the platform he was crossing, arms reaching reflexively out as though a child in fear and for their absent mother. He fell upon his left side and in one monumental twist of historical accident there hit his head upon those magnificent marbled stairs. There was a loud crack as of wooden timbers splitting and the king lay there, awkwardly and unable to move, paralysed.

The gathered hundreds of military men, lords and ladies, ministers, merchants and bankers saw this happen and without once moving or flinching stood there for a little while in thoughtful silence. A junior officer at the front then turned and began to walk away out of the hall. A merchant and his wife then similarly turned silently away. A jester, a general, a diplomat and an unknown child also calmly turned their backs and walked away. Piece by piece and person by person, they began to quietly walk away and as though water draining from a sink, the audience hall gradually and silently emptied.

The doors to the hall were quietly closed. The king was unable to move and could only watch as these polished golden portals met to seal the chamber. Lying there incapacitated and unable to move or speak with stinging eyes unblinking staring at the opulent ceiling, he still believed himself above all others, a man elevated as though a God if only by his own seldish cruelty and hate. He knew from that moment that he would lie there alone and lonely without assistance or compassion, surrounded still by these grandiose trappings of wealth and power. Of course he was fated to be left by all those who served him, fading away into an oblivion that he was earned by years of tyrrany. Not a single person cared for him because he, even as their king, had never once cared for them. The palace doors to that great audience hall were sealed that day and were never opened again.


Coda: The King had never once considered that if you live your life as though you are separate from all others then that is almost certainly how you will also and eventually leave this world. His people knew a basic truth that was beyond even his sharp and manipulative, artfully cunning mind: if you do not care for anyone other than yourself, then no one else will ever care for you and particularly when you need it most.

Ozymandias

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