Kingdom of the Mind
“My king, the Oracle is here by your request.”
The armor-clad Grarrl returned to his post next to the throne as the massive ornate doors began to open. Perched upon the flamboyantly decorated and jeweled throne, the Krawk sporting a rather modest crown in comparison to his seat narrowed his eyes and sank back into the silk lined cushions. The high ceilings of the throne room whispered the echoes of the feathery footsteps of a figure swathed and hooded in robes that seemed to float along a non-existent breeze.
“My lord Nexinus, king of Falthyr,” a voice of charcoal drawled. “How may I serve thee?” The Oracle reached up to the hood of her cloak and revealed her face – an Aisha with fur like the foam on forgotten seas. Her eyes had long lost their usefulness, now an empty pool of silver on her ageless face. “I thought you had left me to die in that cold prison. I can’t say that I’m happy to see you again.”
Nexinus inhaled deeply; dealing with the mystic forces of the Oracle was a dangerous business. It was his fear of magic that led him to the banishment of her and her kind in the first place, but as the troubled times of his realm grew darker, he feared that her wisdom would be the only key to fixing the lives of his panic-stricken people.
“I am in need of your assistance.” He received a snort of skepticism in response. He continued, “I understand that you may be... upset with the situation I placed you in. However, my people are in need of aid, for I fear that forces that you may be familiar with are harming my kingdom.”
“And what has been going on? I haven’t exactly been keeping up with the daily news – it’s hard to learn of the outside world while falsely imprisoned in jail.”
“They have been disappearing. They would be living their normal lives one day and then not exist the next. These occurrences, my advisors have dubbed them Fadings, started out being extremely rare.
“The initial rate of Fading was calculated to be at around once every two years. But now they have become too much for my people to handle. Fathers and husbands have been leaving families helpless without a trace. Children have become a rare sight in my kingdom and my people live in fear.” Nexinus paused and gazed out of the open window to his left. A zephyr had picked up, creating designs in the air out of sand from the ocean of sand that bordered Falthyr. The sun, unrelenting in the sky, stood ever silent, the realm’s supposed guardian. Why had it abandoned them? The Oracle’s voice brought Nexinus’ attention back to the matter at hand.
She was smiling, her milky eyes seeing but blind.
“You do not see it, do you? It has been five years. Surely you’ve noticed by now.”
Nexinus’ brow furrowed in confusion. “What are you talking about, woman? Have the long years locked away tainted your mind with madness?”
The Oracle laughed, her voice clear and ringing like a bell across the majestic walls of the throne room. “You dare speak to me of madness? Look around you! Do you truly believe that any of this is real? Have you forgotten my true name?”
The king stood sharply, his crown nearly falling off from the speed of his movement. The Grarrl guardian at his side tensed and lifted his long halberd slightly in anticipation. The air was silent. Nexinus stared intently at the smiling Aisha in front of him. He couldn’t tell if she had gone insane or if her words were full of lies and deceit intended to lead him on a false path to the solution to Falthyr’s problems. Before he could command his guards to take her to the royal physician for a thorough examination of mental stability, the Oracle moved. Her robes swirled around her, black smoke, as she closed the distance between them. Her face gazed up at his, her pools of silver searching his face for a reaction they couldn’t see.
“What is my name? Say it and you will know the source of your troubles.” Her breath light on his face smelled familiar, like a memory. He stayed silent. His focus on the Oracle was so intense that he didn’t notice that his guard was no longer by his side.
“My true name is Logic. You locked me away when you succumbed to insanity. You refused to hear the truth five years ago.”
“...no. Stop this foolishness. You can’t be-”
“-a part of you? On the contrary, I am you. Did you really think this beloved city of yours is real? How the mighty have fallen.”
“How can you say that Falthyr isn’t real? How is it that you are standing in my palace in the ancient walls of my people?” Nexinus cried, taking a step back from Logic. Her form looked misty now, as if her skin had taken to the movement of her robe, shimmering and flowing.
“This is a city of your mind, built on desperation and disbelief. You have to stop this dream of yours and wake up.”
Nexinus suddenly pushed past her, not feeling his hand go through her body, his body screaming for fresh air.
He escaped through the doors and collapsed outside in the sun. The sand under his body shifted and slipped through his reptilian skin, water of the earth. The Oracle’s voice slithered towards his ears.
“You asked me why your people have been disappearing. I can tell you if you are ready to listen.” Nexinus made no movement on the sand.
“You are not strong of mind anymore. You cannot keep this illusion in your thoughts any longer, and as a result this fabricated world is falling apart. Listen to me, listen to Logic. You killed my sisters, Reason and Sanity, out of fear, out of denial. I am your only hope.”
Around him, Nexinus could feel his city crumbling. His beloved city, the shining jewel of the Lost Desert, began melting into the sand. His crown lay on the ground in front of him having fallen when he escaped the choking confines of the palace walls. For the first time, he truly saw his crown – broken and dry twigs that had been woven carelessly into a circle. The bell tower of Falthyr that had guarded the city’s gates was now a large palm tree, silhouetted by the sun.
For the first time, Nexinus noticed that he was drenched in water and he turned around to see what had been his palace. Behind him was now a small oasis full of clear crystalline water that fed the various ferns and desert grass around surrounding Nexinus. A large stone jutted out from the center of the pool – his throne.
“I...” He was at a loss for words. He climbed to his feet and took a step towards the oasis, knocking over what looked like a small picture frame. He stared at the plastic casing reflecting in the sunlight for a moment before leaning over and plucking it from its bed of sand. Inside was a photograph of... himself. No, not himself. He squinted and held the picture closer to his eyes clouded with tears. It was a picture of a female Krawk with eyes like the sun. Under her face were the words “To my dear Nexinus with love – Falthyr”. His tears now flowed freely as he held the photograph protectively against his chest and gazed over his location. All around him were visible signs of inhabitance; there were piles of ptolymelon rinds, empty grackle bug shells, and tchea fruit stems scattered across the area (he thought of his royal chef and how he seemed to favor making dishes out of these foods), and a large piece of cloth with large palm fronds on top (he recalled his exquisite bed and how it was decorated with the palm leaves). This was his true life.
“You’ve been lost in the desert for five years. Being alone for that long was bound to make you a little... mad.” Logic’s voice drifted back to him out of recesses of his mind. “You can’t live here forever.” Nexinus stood silently before responding to her voice in his head.
“You... you ruined everything,” he said softly, almost inaudible. “I was happy. I had been happy in my kingdom. Who cares if it wasn’t real? At least I was happy!” Nexinus was now pacing frantically back and forth, the picture fluttering out of his hand, returning to its spot in the sand.
“My subjects, my throne, my friends. I wasn’t lonely in my mind! I could pretend that I was eating all sorts of fancy foods and imagine I was sleeping in a comfortable bed! But you’ve ruined it. I DON’T WANT TO WAKE UP!” With a cry of anger, he hurled himself into the sand and curled up into a ball, his eyes squeezed shut.
“I don’t want to wake up... I don’t want to wake up...” he repeated over and over again. Logic didn’t respond.
* * *
“Sir? We’ve received word from the warden that the Oracle is secured in the penitentiary.” The Grarrl hefted his halberd back up to his shoulder and resumed his place next to the throne. Outside the palace, the marketplace bustled with people, the clamor over the Fadings forgotten. The people who had disappeared returned with no memory of what happened. As far as they recalled, they never went missing. And so, another day passed in the realm of Falthyr in relative peace.
King Nexinus smiled.