The other night, the king came back from the dead and he was even dragging his throne with him up from the pit in the earth where he’d been killed by his enemies over three thousand years ago.
He put his crown back on what was left of his skull and looked out on his kingdom. Which was gone.
The kingdom had been replaced by a residential neighborhood. A quiet suburban street. The castle that’d once stood there, had long been ruined, demolished, all the stones carted away. Forgotten.
A blue light from a TV flickered in the window of a modest sleeping house. Maybe sorcery.
He gazed at driveways with cars in them. At Cats in the Windows. Dogs unseen, and unfazed by threat, slept at the foot of this bed and that bed.
Lawn sprinklers ticked in the moonlight.
The king gazed up at the humming street lights, and the power lines that swooped down. A water tower standing in the distance looked like a sleeping monster. The king was quiet not to wake it.
He dragged his throne down the center of the street, left it on someone’s front lawn, right beside a realty sign with a woman’s smiling face and fingers criss crossed under a chin, neck wrapped in pearls.
He went back down into his pit in the earth to find his ceremonial sword and his personal guard, who’d also been slaughtered.
The other morning I drove into town to hit the bank and the library to return a magazine. But when I got to Western Avenue, I had to slam on the brakes. The road ended abruptly, intersected by a wide channel of water.
This was new.
I got out of the car and looked across the water but could only see a block wall.
A voice from the top of the wall yelled, “Be gone!”
“I have no idea what’s happened. I can only tell you what will happen if you don’t turn around.”
“And what’s that?”
An arrow sailed down and stuck in the windshield of my Hyundai Elantra.
I got in my car and drove the long way, taking a country road. The arrow had destroyed the rear view mirror and I was worried about getting a ticket from the cops, but I saw no cops.
Usually there’s at least one cruiser sitting under the train bridge by the new luxury condominiums, but there was no cop car there.
The woods looked terrible. Thinning out. The last time I’d driven through here, the woods had been thick with leaves and trunks and singing birds. Something else, strange, the water tower with its bright colorful eagle painted on it for our town’s high school football team was gone. I’d driven past that water tower most of my life, now there was just a void there. Only sky.
When I took Deer Run Road, hoping to get into town that way, I was annoyed to again hit a wide channel of water. The drawbridge was up. Thick planked and raised with chains so big they looked like plastic props someone would wear for Halloween.
At least this way had a drawbridge. Beyond the drawbridge was another block wall and beyond that, I thought I could make out the peaks of a castle.
A woman in a suit of armor stood across the water, some kind of guard at that side of the drawbridge.
“Hello!” I said, “What’s going on here?”
“Nothing is going on here,” she said. “Unless you have business for it to be more than nothing.”
“I’m trying to get to the bank before noon.”
“Bank? Forget the bank. Go back to your farm.”
“I don’t live on a farm.”
“You do now. Everyone is a farmer who lives outside the castle walls.”
“I’m an electrical engineer. That’s how I make my money.”
“Forget money!” She yelled, “You’ll give us 3/4 of what crops you raise or we’ll burn your farm down and kill your family.”
“I don’t have a family.”
“Well you better hurry up and make one quick to help you with a bountiful harvest.”
“I don’t plan on any kind of harvest.”
“We won’t protect you from the hordes if you don’t provide a bountiful harvest!”
“We’ll open the gates.”
“Oh, you know what! Fuck you! Lower the drawbridge, I’m coming across.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you correctly,” she said. “I want to make sure. What did you just say?”
A large hunk of stone sailed over the wall. It crashed down next to my Hyundai as I sped backwards.
I drove through town the way I’d come.
The thinning woods were completely gone now. The land was flat without even a tree stump.
I drove down the street where I lived and found my house gone too. My entire development was a flat field.
I could barely pass in my car, the road was too muddy.
My neighbor George was pushing a cart towards me, I stopped and rolled down the window.
“What are you doing?”
“You didn’t hear? Oh god, bunch of bullshit. This morning this big shot king came up from a cursed hole in the ground and reclaimed this whole area as his rightful realm.”
“I saw the moat and the drawbridge. They tried to crush me with a cannonball … Oh wait, a cannonball would be different. This was a catapult.”
“Catapult. Yeah that got those,” George said. “And crazy guys on horses, in spades. Least you still got your car. It’ll help you plow your field.”
“I’m not plowing a field!”
“They’ll kill ya, dude. They just put Carl and Kathy’s heads on pikes.” he pointed at where Kathy and Carl’s blue Cape Cod had stood.
“Come on, hop in the car, let’s get out of here.”
George declined the ride, said, “You don’t want to get beyond the safety of the walls. The hordes are worse than the king’s men.”
“The King, whatever his name is.”
I put the peddle to the floor and burst up the muddy road.
Men on horseback stood in a line ahead. Arrows smacked against the front of my car. I slowed when I saw the way out of town didn’t exist any more. A tall stone wall was there instead. I stopped completely when I saw the battering ram coming towards me, and the horses I’d have to kill with my Hyundai for no reason.
My car was swarmed with suits of armor and clanking swords and hammers and an ax that went through the hood and became lodged in the engine itself.
Yesterday I started to hear screams from outside the walls of my prison cell. The guard who had been taunting me and talking about how vicious my execution would soon be was suddenly gone from the chamber outside of my cell.
The sun fell and the room became dark.
My voice was only an echo that bounced down the stone hallway. But then there was a light. A torch, and a woman in a hooded robe carrying the torch.
When she got closer, and lowered the hood, I saw it was Louise, the manager from the food store across the street from the dry cleaner.
She had keys in her hand, but none of them fit the lock.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” she said. “I think we might be the only normal people left …”
Still another key didn’t work. The lock rattled but didn’t pop.
“I know a place we’ll be safe,” she said. “I’ll take you there.”
“What’s all the screaming?” I asked.
“People being eaten …”
“Eaten by what?”
She tried another key. That one didn’t fit either. “Ughh, by—“
There was something running up behind her in the hallway. It didn’t take long. It bit in and dragged her down to the ground.
More of them came into the hallway. They ripped Louise apart and ate her. I was weeping and cowering in the corner of my cell as they pounded the bars trying to get in at me. But I was happy that the bars were there and that I was safe.
The screams have stopped. When I woke up this morning, I could see through the wall in a spot, it was eroding away. There was now a small window, created by chance.
Outside, I saw piles of feather-covered dinosaurs face down in the mud.
Or belly up, sizzling in the sun.
The bars to my cell were rusted out so thin, I was able to spread them with my hands. I walked out of the crumbling castle just as it collapsed into dust and absorbed back into the wet sloppy ground.
I walked to a fallen dinosaur and saw it was being consumed from the inside out. Bacteria.
In the distance, I could see a single tree.
I walked towards the tree.
I wondered what I could create. Gasoline is made from oil but how? Electricity is made by causing a turbine to spin. But how do you make a turbine? And what is alternate current or direct current other than magic right now? I have seen boy scouts make fire with a stick or a piece of flint in a Youtube video but there is no wifi any longer and I can’t access those Youtube videos.
Underneath the tree, I found the throne, I found the crown.
I kept walking.
Ahead in the distance, trees are pushing up out of the slop, rising like a time lapse video of the moon coming up from seemingly nothing.
My Air Jordans are slick with primordial ooze.