Author : Aaron Emmel
The King of the Ruins was perched on the crumbled wall of an old building. He appeared to have been sleeping, but jerked up like a startled bird when I approached. His overlarge, once-white tunic flapped about him as he turned to face me.
“A story about America?” he asked. “Or television?”
“No,” I said, handing him some bread, cheese and grapes in a folded cloth. That was the deal: we brought him food, he told us stories.
“The Internet, then. It was all the thing for a while. Still is, across the oceans.”
“I want to hear about The End.”
He unwrapped the cloth to see what he was going to get. He ate some grapes, smiled, and rubbed his narrow thighs.
“It was quick,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast the world can change.”
I nodded. “The politician. Frykes. Why did he do it?”
The King regarded the structure beneath him, steel bones jutting from concrete flesh. “Power.”
“But what about Democracy? Checks and Balances? All the reasons there would never be a revolution?”
He looked down at me. His pale blue eyes pushed me back a half-step. “Isn’t it your day for the gardens?”
“You should be with the Twelve group.”
“What’s it to you? You’re not part of the Clan.”
He rubbed his thighs again. “You’re fighting with Jupa?”
“He wants to be head of the group. He may be stronger, but I’m faster, and I’m smarter.” I growled the last words.
“Maybe,” said the King, “Frykes was like you when he was young. He was smart. He was fast. He knew his day would come. But there is a thing called Time, Jonathan, and it trumps Democracy, and all the Checks and Balances ever thought of. It’s the strongest, and the fastest, and the smartest, all rolled up in one. And one day Frykes realized his time was passed. It’s a thing that happens when you get older.” He looked back at the cavern where he slept, a dark well in the side of a fallen building.
“You mean he gave up?”
“He just said to himself, ‘This is no longer my time.’ And he decided to fight for his power. Like everyone does. Like you and Jupa will do. His enemy would not win. He promised himself that at the beginning. Frykes would win, or the whole continent would fall, but his enemy would not win.”
“So everything got destroyed. Frykes didn’t win, either. There wasn’t anything left to win.”
“But his enemy didn’t win.”
I stared at him. “Was it worth it?”
“No,” he said.
“Would you try again?”
“Are you still going to fight Jupa?”
“Yes,” I said.
He nodded. “Well, that’s the way of it, then,” he said, and began picking through the cheese.