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General

An usher politely holds your elbow as you ascend to the stage. You fold your hand across your chest in gratitude, as you have been taught. The audience hisses their appreciation for your delicate human frame, wrapped tightly in gold and red. You can barely walk across the stage, but even now this benefits you. Pause to take it in: the acclaim, the lust for the exotic. Soon, it will all be destroyed in flame and vacuum. 


“Sing us a song of Earth!” they shout.


You smile and nod as they laugh and lick their lips. One of them uses his sword to prod open a wall-spore, and a putrid fog slinks toward you and curls itself around your feet.


Stand tall with one foot slightly ahead of the other. Keep your chest high; they love that. Breathe in the heavy air and transform it into song. Time begins . . . now.


***


Doubt inundates you, as you knew it would. End this foolishness. End it now. Recover what you can. You will be consumed, but she will survive. 


What nonsense. Now is not the time for the soothing lies you want to tell yourself. The truth must be brutish. Isn’t that what they taught you with their humiliating games, their corrosive intimidation, their pumice tongues? This is who you are, you frail, pinned insects, and this is who we are, your lords. Bow, prance, yield, sing.


If your fellow captives had designs for escaping, they did not survive long enough to share them with you. Only you and your daughter remain. She is young but capable, and she will follow your lead. The plan is not without flaws, but you were clear in your directions:


Bathe in their gelatinous pools, wallow in the lard, allow their stench to soak into your pores.


You will be assisted by an ally promised things he will never receive. He will give you a uniform to disguise you as you follow him to his room; this has how they have used me. Talk to no one apart from him. Assure him you only have odor for him. Give him nothing but promises of animalistic bliss. Start in the elevator.


Between floors, turn the command key to pause your ascent. Keeping your hand close to the key, draw him to yourself. When he succumbs, insert the key into the abdomen section of the dorsal vessel. You must not be afraid to push through the exoskeleton with all your weight, and you must not miss. He will flail. Use his own sword to remove his head. Remember, they must not know their own destruction. Yes, I know, I know, the temptation will be great, but every second is precious. His body will quiver. Ignore it. 


Exit at seven. It should be quiet, but the uniform and bath brine should adequately hide you. Their alarms are sensitive, but you have time. I will give you time, my beautiful daughter. They love to broadcast the songs of their slaves, and I will sing to you.


In the fourth stall, there is a pod for you. It is supplied, programmed, and ready for your escape.


She shook her head. “I will wait for you.”


“No, there is only room for one,” you replied. “Will you remember what I have told you?”


“Yes.”


She wept because she was close to guessing the truth, so you said, “I will come to you another way, and we will be together again.” You spoke the lie smoothly and without hesitation.


***


“A song of Earth is what you want?” you ask the crowd.


They bay and shriek and curse, which you know means “yes.” Perfect.


“I exist only by your mercy and for your pleasure,” you say, as expected.


You sing tenderly to your only child.


A jewel of blue in endless deep

Come now, my child, it’s time for sleep

Now lay you down in oceans blue

There is no Earth left here for you.


“Because we destroyed it!” one shouts. His buddies pat his back and the room crackles in victory. You acknowledge with a slight head tilt. It is true.


“No lullabies!” says another, but you ignore him. You have rehearsed this too long, too well.


The shores recede in baths of brine

Come now, my Love, let us entwine

Our minds and souls and bodies, too

There is no Earth left here for you.


Three of them grab themselves and thrust their bodies in obscene gestures, drawing laughter from their comrades. They all hoist their drinks in cheer, then return their attention to you, their tongues drooling.

Your timing is good, so far. This is the most dangerous moment for her, so you fill the room with your voice.


Feel now the blade you forged for me,

Come now, sweet Death, in ecstasy,

And part all lovers’ hearts in two,

There is no Earth left here for you.


Oh, they loved that. They pound their fists and howl, cheering you on in their carnality and bloodthirst. They are slow to notice the Captain, who has entered from the back of the room. They come to attention. He eyes you warily. 


You ignore him because you are nothing to him. A slave betrays no familiarity.


“Well, boys? Are we going to let the dog sing a song of Earth or not?” shouts the Captain.


They cheer and remain standing as a sign of respect for the mighty warrior they believe him to be. He is their avatar, their god of war, their holy commander, fearless and pure of motive.


But he chose you as his slave, and you know better. You belt the bridge.


The seven-storied mountain is laid to waste,

Our bitter tears are all we taste,

The four winds of Earth breathe their last breath.

And human home finds its fall

There is no Earth left here at all.


Time is running short. The only threat remaining is the Captain, who may yet hold a vestige of dignity and honor. You hope he does not.


He lays in front of him, on the table, images of his family: wife, concubines, children, grandchildren. You have seen them before. In fact, you used these very images to demonstrate exactly how you would blackmail him. He took you in, and when you flattered him and pleased him, he delighted in telling you his secrets, revealing to you alone that despite his carefully-crafted facade of fearlessness, he is at heart a fraud. He delighted in telling you how he crushed the underlings whose plans, victories, and wealth he stole. 


“Bury the bodies deep,” he liked to say. “That is how you become a god to your people!”


He was much too confident in your ignorance and disposability. Now, his only hope of escape with an untarnished legacy was self-destruction. He did not accept your proposal easily, but in truth, there was little to argue. He had left you in your cell too long to brood, to think, to organize.


“You are just as vile and wretched and sick as every one of your species,” he said.


“I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” you said. 


You know now that he will not hesitate to start the conflagration. And you feel an unexpected sorrow in seeing him weep as he sends one last message to his loved ones, followed by a line of code. It is done. His crew does not notice.


A jewel of blue in endless deep

Come now, my child, it’s time for sleep

Now lay you down in oceans blue

There is no Earth left here for you.


You hold the last note solid and strong enough to propel your child into the womb of space. And your enemies, and yourself, into just and welcome oblivion.


June 26, 2020 23:27

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