The King of the World
The King of the World was sitting on his throne and looked at his subjects with boredom and something which might have been anger. Three velvet cushions were piled up under his royal backside so that he was tall enough to look his admirers in the eye. Why were these unusual measures necessary, you might wonder. It was because the King of the World was only ten years old. His late father bent his head into the yoke of marriage quite late, so when his first son, King of the World Junior, at that time simply Harry, was born the father was already on the shady side of fifty. Then, his 63rd took him away, leaving the throne and two screaming twin sisters to Junior.
Everybody thought that the young king was a most disagreeable child; he always frowned and grimaced at everything, but of course they never gave voice to their opinion. Heads flew off necks too easily those days. They tried to please the King with exotic pets but he refused to look at them. They tried to charm him with delicious meals but he refused to eat. They tried to make him merry with wondrous toys but he didn’t want to play. He just sat through long meetings with the cabinet, whose talk he hardly understood, nodding and signing everything they put under his hand. He sent people to prison and launched wars against distant galaxies, although he didn’t know what war meant and didn’t know any other galaxies except his own. He raised taxes and sanctified laws, although he didn’t know what they were about and had no idea where all the money was going.
People didn’t like him because they thought he was cruel and bloody-handed but they couldn’t deny he brought the Silver Age of the World. They talked about him behind his back and came up with nasty nicknames like Sour Face and Grumpy Brat.
Nobody had seen him smile until the day he died, at the tender age of 17. First the courtiers didn’t even notice something was wrong. The King didn’t come to have breakfast but they thought it was again one of his caprices. When he didn’t attend either lunch or the daily committee meeting, they got furious and broke the door of the throne room. They found the King sitting on his throne, sleeping a quiet, breathless dream.
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The loveliest smile played on his lips and his chancellors stared at him as if they’d seen him for the first time. The King of the World was smiling because he found what courtiers couldn’t bring him: peace and his lost childhood.