Ormund Plandt was a nobody. Just the night before, he’d laid his head on his nothing pillow, in his unremarkable bedroom, in his crappy house, on the corner of Mundane Ave and Nowhere Ln. This morning, however, he was decidedly somewhere and someone else. Outside his window, where the morning prior he’d observed the usual rust-colored sky, scorched by a century of war after the discovery of harnessed UV weaponry (HUVWs), he now could see a bright blue visage with airy puffs of white. It reminded him of how his childhood history books described the 20th century. As he slothed out of bed he noticed his tattered rags were silken and fresh. The room itself was grand and, to his amazement, he opened his bedroom door to an unfamiliar house – no: mansion – no: estate – meticulously curated to the smallest detail.
“Good morning, King Ormund” a finely suited man greeted him.
“King who-now?” Ormund replied, confused.
“Uh… your majesty? I mean, King Ormund, sir?” the man revised nervously.
“Good morning?” Ormund replied, just as confused.
“Yes, well, here’s your schedule for today” the man said, handing him a leather portfolio. “We have your usual breakfast prepared in the café: bacon, eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon…”
“You already said bacon” Ormund interrupted.
“Yes, well, you always bookend your meals with bacon, sir” the man confirmed. “I’ll join you and prep you for your meetings if you’d like.”
The day went on like that, with various advisors shuttling Ormund this way and that, to one meeting after another, subordinately catering to his every need in the process. He didn’t even know what he’d said during those meetings but whatever it was, was enough to get him through. He wasn’t sure if his guise was that convincing or if those around him expected a certain level of incompetence, but whichever the case – no one batted an eye. He kept expecting to awaken from a dream but the day persisted into night. He laid his kingly head on his satin pillowcase, hoping awaken as the same man in the same place the following day.
“Hey O.P.! Wake up!” called someone abruptly.
Ormund sprang upright in bed, hazy and surprised. “What!? What happened?” Ormund called, but no one was there. He checked the sheets – satin. He sighed relief.
“If you’re done molesting those sheets, I can clue you in to what’s going on. And stop looking around, dummy. I’m in your head.” The voice continued as Ormund self-consciously did stop molesting sheets and looking around. “My name is Praol and I’m kinda like your ego/spiritual guide etc. You’re still you but you’re in a parallel dimension due to magic or something – I don’t know. In this dimension, you’re not a loser. You are a powerful ruler with wealth and resources. You’ve been given the opportunity to discover your true nature.”
“Is that all?” Ormund replied, somewhat skeptically but having no evidence to the contrary to dispute the claim.
“Pretty much. Oh, and all of your actions impact your reality to a degree of 100x what they would in your home dimension. Good luck. I’ll be here if you have any questions” Praol said.
“How do I reach you?” Ormund asked.
“I’m in your head.” Praol said dismissively, and Ormond sensed the conversation was over.
“Praol! One more thing.” Ormund sensed Praol drawing back to his consciousness. “Why is my skin the color of the sky from my home dimension?”
“Think of it as the mark of royalty.” Praol answered, and retreated once again. Ormund sensed Praol was grinning as he said it.
During his first few weeks as king, Ormund did his best not to make any decisions of great consequence, in fear of disrupting the joyride he was on. Inevitably though, one of his advisors approached him, during his daily golf, with a matter that required his discretion.
“King Ormund, our nation’s agriculture workers are demanding a fairer wage and access to better healthcare.” The aide said.
“Why not give it to them?” Ormund asked.
“Well, technically they aren’t supposed to be in our country. However, they are essential to our food supply because they cheaply do work that most of our citizens don’t want to do.”
“Do the workers have an alternative option? Do they have any leverage at all?” Ormund asked.
“They could strike but then they’d get no money and could be more easily deported, so it’s unlikely they will” said the aide.
“Keep the wage and benefits where they are.” Ormund said. “The workers can remain here, our food stays cheap; everyone wins.”
His aide did as Ormund advised and the repercussions were almost immediately apparent. The royal estate became even more ornate, his personal wealth grew and his loyal followers became more enamored with him, heaping praise in abundance. Conversely, those who opposed his rule grew further enraged, the impoverished fell deeper into squalor and the overall state of the kingdom declined, other than for the very rich. But the king was pleased.
“Good afternoon, O.P., just checking in” said the familiar voice.
“I think I understand how this dimension works now, Praol” said Ormund. “If I act toward my own best interests, I gain power and wealth, but I assume if I act to benefit the majority, my personal position weakens. Is that about right?”
“Roughly” said Praol.
“What am I missing?” Ormund asked.
“Your decisions also affect the state of your soul” Praol explained. “The hungrier for power and wealth you are and the more you act to achieve them, the less ability you have to nourish your soul.”
“Is that all?” Ormund exclaimed with delight. “I’m not religious anyway; just don’t tell that to my base” he added with a chuckle.
“I guess you don’t have anything to worry about then” replied Praol, perfectly (and off-puttingly) echoing Ormund’s chuckle, albeit in an extended fashion, for effect.
Ormund shrugged off Praol’s ominous teasings, going about the business of marginalizing the marginalized, ignoring the suffering, amassing wealth and being overly unpleasant in general, if I may say so. What he didn’t anticipate, and what Praol hadn’t warned him about, was the immense appetite all this ruling would bring about. Ormund just ate and ate and ate but never seemed to be satisfied, no matter how formidable the bacon bookends were piled to be. One day, as he was having breakfast with his top aide, Ormund felt a strange compulsion.
“What’s your name, friend? I realize I can’t recall” he said to the aide.
“Stanley, sir” he replied.
“Come sit next to me, Stanley. Right here” Ormand patted the open bench seat next to him.
“This is highly unusual, sir” Stanley said while complying.
“Humor me” Ormand insisted. His mouth hovered open at the end of the phrase, rather than closing. It opened wider, then wider still. His jaw unhinged and his face became a perverse distortion of a human image. He lunged at the fright-frozen Stanley, his gaping mouth blanketing Stanley’s from below the chin to above the nose. Stanley tried to scream but it only echoed into the king’s mouth abyss as he vacuumed the soul from Stanley’s body, in a terrible and disgustingly slobbery scene. Ormund unlatched and wiped Stanley’s face with a handkerchief. Stanley was alive but a robotic husk of his former self – soulless. But the king’s appetite was finally satisfied.
“Well that’s an odd twist” Ormand thought to himself.
“I’ll say.” Praol replied.
Ormund was unhindered, though. The spoils from his questionable decisions were intoxicating and the satisfaction of consuming Stanley’s soul was almost orgasmic to him. So, Ormund continued: lucrative anti-environmental endeavors, further empowerment of the systemic subjugation of minority groups, hate speech aimed at rallying his base supporters, and the list goes on. The hunger, too, perpetuated. Aide after aide, soul after soul he consumed to satiate himself until neither spoils nor souls were enough for him. Nearly his entire staff had been reduced to husks – subservient minions who lived to carry out Ormund’s bidding. As the mass of fresh souls depleted, Ormund would find satisfaction in little nibbles of flesh. Oh, not too much – just a little munch of the trapezius muscle, obscured by their shirt collars.
But, sometimes not so obscured. The king’s aides began to look rather gruesome, frankly, pale from intermittent blood loss and bruised/scarred from the king’s snacking. It was pretty gross. It was also utterly infuriating to his critics.
“Can’t you see what’s happening here!?” they’d say. “The king is literally feasting on his staff!”
To which Ormund and his supporters would simply respond, “That is ridiculous. It is fake news.”
“Are you kidding me!?” the critics would say. “Assistant King, Stanley Prince, literally has bite marks on his neck and hasn’t spoken any phrase other than ‘I agree with the king’ in like three months!”
“What a loyal patriot” the partisan news would say. “Our nation owes a great debt to the king and his staff.”
Back and forth they’d go; Ormund’s critics passionately pleading the clear evidence of soul-sucking cannibalism and his base contending that “Prince has always said very little and has always had those ghastly bite marks on his neck so mind your business.”
Meanwhile, Ormund grew richer and more powerful. He grew fatter with the souls and flesh of his minions – his palace grew more ornate. His staff grew more dependent upon him, suckling his every command like mother’s teat. He noticed that the more his power grew, the more physically close his staff needed to be to him, like a gravitational pull of his own importance. After long, you’d never see Ormund without his gruesome horde, even standing behind him on stage during public addresses. He found it odd at first but ultimately adored the attention and dependence. He was their god.
In what he knew would be the shining example of his kingly brilliance, Ormund, all this time, had been allocating all the funding and resources his military officers needed to research and develop HUVWs (yet undiscovered in this dimension). The night he greenlit the live prototype test on China, an act he envisioned would be a two-fold success – destroy a competing super power and prove military superiority over the rest of the world – Ormund laid in bed at peak contentment. His minions slept in the hallway outside his door, awaiting orders. Piles of cash and jewelry donated by his supporters besprinkled his satin sheets and the fine Persian rug around his bed as he drifted into a blissful slumber.
He awakened early the next morning, however, feeling a bit perturbed, then surprised and unnerved at the discovery of his horde surrounding his bed, noiselessly staring and waiting.
“Christ!” Ormund yelled, startled. “Well, while you’re here, Stanley, bend down here and let me get a little bite.”
“Ouch!” Ormund said. “You’re getting a bit nibbly yourself, Stanley. Ease up.”
Stanley didn’t comply this time. In fact, one by one the rest of the horde began to nip at Ormund. He kicked and writhed and yelled but was no match for their numbers. His protests only made them more aggressive, biting and tearing at him through what grew to blood-curdling screams until he was silent in gruesome expiration. Ormund’s final act of brilliance was actually three-fold, with the third acting to drain the last bit of his own soul that had remained, through his own savage gluttony.
Much to his surprise, however, he awakened again at what seemed to be the same time the next morning. He checked the sheets – satin. He felt, simultaneously, relieved that the kingship wasn’t a dream and that being eaten alive was.
“Good morning, O.P.” said Praol.
“Good morning, Praol” Ormund replied. “You won’t believe the nightmare I had.”
“It wasn’t a nightmare” said Praol.
“So that really did happen, yesterday? How am I still alive?” Ormund asked through his utter confusion.
“Not yesterday – today” Praol clarified. “Today and every day for eternity.”
Praol chuckled in Ormund’s voice as the king looked around at the horde closing in on him, again.