Bit 1 King of the Dead 

I awake with a start, my heart hammering in my chest. Did I really just do that?! My brain thinks, manically. My ice-cold fingers claw over my pumping heart. Wait…! I blink. Do… what?

“Good morning, sir.”

A shiver as sudden and as nippy as the winter tingles down my spine, making me choke. I whip my head around and cry out, terrified. A creature – there are no other words to describe it – hunches its big, bony shoulders, practically crawling on the ground. Its grey-coloured, thin-boned tail twitches behind it. Its massive head is too big for its bony body, and its canine fangs are way too large for its drooling mouth. But it is the blood-red beaded eyes that make me quiver in my bed sheets.

Wait… bed sheets?! I look down, my shaking hands clutching at the fine specimens of creamy-coloured silk. The red duvet lies above me, the softness shining in darker tones in the shadows of the early morning. These aren’t mine! I realize, jumping up. This room isn’t mine!

“Wh-?! Where am I?!” I shriek out, trembling.

The creature cocks its head to the side, its large, flappy ears flopping one way. The jeweled eyes remain twinkling with a dark malice, trained on me. “Lord Mitchell,” it lowers itself further to the ground. “I am your humble servant, Bulgruth. And you are in your bedchambers.”

I whip my head from side to side, studying everything. I recognize nothing. Not the tall window of painted glass, not the thick, red velvet curtains tied with a golden tasselled rope. Not the large, plush chair modeled like a Victorian throne sitting in the solitary corner. Or the flickering white-waxed candles glowing on two stand-up brass holders on either side of the ebony door.

“This is not my room!” I declare, my voice hitting a pitch a lot higher than even my sister’s.

“Please, master.” Bulgruth bows once more before crawling on all fours towards the door. He glances over his bony shoulder blade. “Follow me. There are things we must discuss.” And then he is gone from sight.

I place my palms on my kneecaps, trying to get them to stop shaking. One breath. Two breaths. Three.

“Okay.” I whisper, standing up straight. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.” One more breath builds up in my chest and I hold in as I follow after the strange-looking creature.

Bulgruth leads me down dark corridor after dark corridor. Similar gargoyle-like creatures skulk in the shadows of the hallways, as if hiding from me. I blink in awe at them as I pass them by.

“Where are we going?” I whisper quietly to Bulgruth.

“To your throne room, my lord.” Bulgruth does not look behind him as he states this simple fact. “Believe you me,” he adds in his crusty voice. “You will thank me later for waking you. Just know I was told to do it.”

“’Told to?’” I bite my tongue to keep from stuttering. “By who?”

“We are here.” Bulgruth stops suddenly in front of two very massive ebony doors. Two knockers shaped as serpents tied in elegant knots around a juicy-looking apple glitter like pure gold in the darkness of the corridor. Bulgruth takes hold of one – his clawed hand of four fingers surprisingly coordinated – and bangs it once against the door.

BOOM!

The sound makes me jump. Slowly, the ebony door swings open, each creak and groan sending stabs of pain and nausea into my stomach.

“Come on.” Bulgruth grunts, leading the way into the dark room. Chewing my fingertips, I follow in after him.

BANG!

I whip around, holding back a squeak of fear.

“Be still, my lord.” Bulgruth mumbles. “The door shut behind us. Be at ease. You are master of this kingdom. No one here will harm you. It is beyond their capabilities.”

A thousand liquified questions bounce around in my skull, but not one of them makes any sense. Not a single one.

Bulgruth crawls forward, paying me no attention. I peer around him, the breath suddenly gets caught in my lungs. “Wh- where are we?”

“I already told you, my lord.” Bulgruth growls, beginning to get testy. “Your throne room.”

The room suddenly seems to balloon into a massive chamber with tiled flooring, a twisted mosaic ceiling or agonized faces, and arches of marble on either side. At the very end of the room is a large throne, etched in gold, silver, and jewels, sparkling in the candlelight like night and day. A blood-red rug sits below it, and golden-framed mirrors hang on the walls surrounding the embellished throne.

I blink in awe at the sight. Skulls, agonized faces twisted in pain and fear, daggers, gargoyles, and scythes embellished with angel wings, no one column of the marble arches are carved the same. And each carving and sketch becomes even more terrifying the closer we approach the throne.

Bulgruth stops moving suddenly, even though we are no where near the throne. He bows his head to the ground, jeweled-red eyes trained up at me. “Only you can go closer. Sit on your throne, lord, and I shall answer every question in your mind.”

Slowly, I peel my eyes from the kneeling gargoyle, and stare at the empty throne. Horrified and shaking, a sudden calm rushes over me. I belong here. This is mine.

CLOP! CLOP! CLOP! CLOP!

The echo of my footsteps on the tiled floor solidifies this dream. With each step, I come closer to my throne. With each step, I feel colder and colder until only the warmth of my insides remain. It is as if I am welcoming an old friend.

Slowly, I stretch out my hand and let my fingertips brush the back of the throne. All fear and terror leaves my body in one big wave. I am stripped of my doubt, my anxiety, all my roller-coaster emotions.

I am as cool as a cucumber.

I twirl back to the bowing Bulgruth. Seeing my humble servant there on his hands and knees stirs a deep, twisted pleasure in my stomach. Yes, I am the lord here. I am the lord of this manor.

And with that, I lower myself into my throne. Yes, my throne. Mine. My arms relax on the golden rests beside me. I belong here.

“Speak, servant.” Dark tones creep into my voice. Domineering. Commanding. Controlling. Superior. Yes, I am the lord here. “Tell me what you have to say.”

“Lord Mitchell Hayes,” Bulgruth raises himself from the tiled floor. “You are King of the Dead.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Even though I am here, in this dark corridor, even sitting in this chair, I know I belong.” I let my voice echo in the massive throne room, each word as cold and as precise as a dagger in the night. “But I don’t understand.”

“It’s like this,” Bulgruth begins. “You were human. You made a deal with the lord Lucifer-“

The Devil?! My brain snaps, warning bells ringing like a fire alarm. For real!?

“-And now he is off somewhere, retiring from his roll as the lord of Hell. And you are in his place.”

I stare at Bulgruth, my mind racing. As each second ticks by, I can feel myself sinking lower and lower… into satisfaction at the demon’s words. “I see.” I tuck my folded hands under my chin. “Very well. So, I am the new King of the Dead, hmm?”

“Indeed.” Bulgruth nods. “However, every king has duties, whether they reign above or below, every lord has them.”

“Tell me what is expected of me.” I command.

Bulgruth lets out a gruff, cackling chuckle. “You may not like it.” He warns, his laughter rising in volume until it booms off the cavern-like walls.

I narrow my eyes. “Try me.”

“Your job as the new King of the Dead,” Bulgruth begins, red eyes glowing, “is to lead unsuspecting humans to their deaths. Ultimately, to your kingdom, not God’s.”

The weight of his words sink in like the slow heaviness of boulders lowering down on my shoulders. Slow, and almost unbearable. Squeezing the life and breath out of me.

“Ah.” One breath, two breaths, three. “I see.” I let the weight of the boulders lower themselves on me, but I crush right through them – their heaviness having no effect. “I see what’s expected of me. And I can’t wait to get started.”

***

Her name is Lila Pember, and she is going to die tonight. As King of the Dead, I am allowed to return to the human realm whenever I see fit. Both in my physical body, and as a spirit.

She walks the hallways at her highschool, her head down, her pale eyes hidden by the dyed-purple hair she keeps in uneven layers. She wears black and silver piercings hang in the folds of her skin. Nobody notices her. Nobody understands her. At least, that’s what I tell her.

Lila keeps a diary that she carries with her everywhere. Of course, no one sees her with it, or cares to read it. Perhaps if they did, they would see my contributions written there in her elegant, cursive hand. But no one does. And frankly, they wouldn’t care anyway.

She looks herself in the mirror in her room, the door locked, music loud and shrieking from her laptop. She doesn’t like what she sees. I can tell from the way she keeps staring at herself from one angle, from another. Sucking in air until her ribs are easily countable from underneath her pale, scarred skin. Her black-rimmed eyes are full of angry tears.

“You are ugly.” I whisper in her ear, peeping over her shoulder. “And worthless! Even God doesn’t love you.”

With a shaky breath, Lila Pember breathes out in a coarse whisper, “There is no God.”

Yes! I grin maniacally. I win!

“You are wrong,” the angel beside me insists into Lila’s other ear. “You are wrong, Lila! God loves you! Don’t listen to this demon! He only lies to you! As the serpent, Lucifer lied to Eve!”

I roll my eyes. “You are just as worthless as this girl.”

The angel ignores me. “Please,” she whispers. “Please don’t even think about it, Lila! You are God’s precious child. He does not wish for you to think this way.”

“Do you hear those ramblings?” I whisper to the human, her reflection beginning to twist up in anger. “Those are nothing more than the little sliver of hope you long for. But guess what, sweety, there is no hope for you. God abandoned you. Your father abandoned you. No one loves you. And no one is going to save you. Not even the dreamy football player, Tom Lawall! You are all alone. You and me.” I grin at the thought of my soon-to-be triumph. “Why wait? Why not do it now?”

“No!” The angel begs. “Don’t do it! Not now! Not ever! Believe me, Lila. God has a plan for you! But it is not this. It is not hatred or anger or sadness! God has plans to prosper you, to make you happy. He loves you! And He wants to make all your fears and demons go away! Just believe in Him again! I beg you!

“Do it now, Lila,” I whisper, hardly able to keep myself from laughing. “Why not now? Mommy’s gone to work. Bradley is out getting high with his friends, it’s not like he cared enough to stay home like he promised Mommy. No one is here. Just you and those pills in the bathroom cupboard.”

“Lila, don’t-!”

“Or there’s the bleach downstairs in the Landry room.” I cut the angel off, feeling the heat rise from the human girl’s skin. I can hear her heart racing. “Or you could even take one of Daddy’s old ties and hang your own noose.”

“Lila! Stop! This is madness!” The angel cries, tears flowing down her angelic face.

Ha, like I care. I laugh out loud. “Lila,” I whistle, drawing her attention. “Do you remember that old bridge Jimmy Rooks took you to in Grade five?”

No!” The angel gasps. “Please, I am begging you, not that one!

“Do you remember how much you liked him? How much you wanted him to like you?” I egg on, smiling despite myself.

“I am begging you,” the sobbing angel turns to me. “I am begging you. Please don’t do this to her.”

I smile triumphantly at the angel, knowing only I would win. “Do you remember how he took you up there to give you something?” I raise a taunting eyebrow. “Something ‘special?’”

“What is wrong with you?!” The angel shrieks. “Let her live!”

Firmly, I plant both hands on Lila’s shoulders as we gape at her face in the mirror. “Do you remember how you were so hopeful, so sure that he was going to kiss you?” Gently, I brush my lips against her earlobe, taunting.

Stop it!

“And, Lila?” I add, a wink at my angel friend, “do you remember how he laughed at you and pushed you over the edge? How you went home, wet and cold, and sobbing, because he didn’t love you back?”

Flashes of her worst memory crumble her already broken face. She sobs into her hands as I gently pat her shoulder. As the girl’s weeping continues, the angel slowly begins to fade. I smile at the fading light.

“It must be so annoying.” I wink at her. “When the child you’re trying to protect no longer believes in you. Must be hard to comfort someone you can no longer influence.”

The angel grits her teeth in rage. “God will have His vengeance on you!” she snarls at me. “And when He does, you will regret ever making that deal with Lucifer!”

I shrug my shoulders. “I hate to tell you this, Lila,” I turn my attention back to the human girl weeping in front of her room mirror. “But even back then, Jimmy Rooks was trying to kill you.”

Shaking, Lila steps back from the mirror, her hands slowly dropping to her sides. Her lips pressed into a solemn line.

NO!” The angel shrieks as she slowly fades away, weeping.

I offer her one last smile before Lila marches out of the room, leaving the pitiful entity crumbled on the floor. “Be honest,” I smirk at her. “You always knew I would win.”

***

It is no surprise when Lila finds herself at the bridge Jimmy Rooks threw her off of as a prank. In fact, I knew she would end up here since that day. And I’ve planned for it.

In the near distance, at the top of the grassy hill overlooking the valley, the river, and the bridge, the cathedral bells chime hauntingly as the clock ticks the new hour away.

“Now, or never.” I say to Lila’s back as she faces the dangerous rapids below. She’s praying, I can hear her thoughts in my head.

Please, please, she silently begs. Let me hit the rocks down there.

She begins counting. How ridiculous. I’ve waited nearly four years for her soul. It is impossible to ask me to wait seconds more.

With a great shove, I slam my hands into the girl. Shrieking, she goes sailing over the edge. And I smile to myself as I hear the sudden cracking of her head and spine on the rocks below, just as she prayed.

Over her dead body, I throw my head back laughing. I cackle to the moon beginning to poke out of the clouds. I howl at the heavens, knowing God is sadly looking down. But I won! Again!

Sobering, I look back down at the human girl’s worthless body. “Yes,” I whisper to no one. “I am a better King of the Dead than even Lucifer himself.”

***

I awake with a start, my heart hammering in my chest. Did I really just do that?! My brain thinks, manically. My ice-cold fingers claw over my pumping heart. Wait…! I blink. Do… what?

“Good morning, sir.”

The End 

Cover

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