This one is a bit dark — an exercise in shock. Be careful.
The soles of his boots made no noise – not a whisper – as he walked slowly across the room. He paused at each pillar, marveling at the newness of the stone, as if marble were something newly sprung into being. He stopped at the edge of a pool of sunlight spreading across the polished floor, and watched the dust settled – a miniature snowstorm.
Finally, as if suddenly remembering other pressing duties, the man floated to a trio of steps leading to a low, flat dais. He lighted the steps, and sank to a thick black cloth spread on the floor, crossing his knees as he sat.
With a glance to the unlit corners of the vast hall, and a slight tug at his jet-black goatee, he signaled with a purposeful nod.
“Now we come to it,” he said as two hooded figures dragged a limp form before their master. The captive collapsed in a heap in front of the dais, dumped like an offering to an angry, foreign god.
“Refresh him,” said the man on the black cloth.
From the shadows, a fat man approached carrying a wooden bucket and a pewter goblet. The goblet tinkled musically as he set it on the tiled floor. The dark man listened, amused, as the sound echoed across the space of the room. The fat man gripped the base of the bucket, cocked his arms back, and launched a torrent of water onto the bound man on the floor. Binding chains rattled at his manacled wrists as he started, jolted by the frigid shock.
“You are afraid,” said the man with the goatee. “You think I will kill you?”
The prisoner hung his head, his chin resting in defeat on his heaving chest. A slight gesture from the bearded man brought back the hooded guards. They forced the captive’s head back as the fat man poured the contents of the goblet down the man’s throat.
“It’s wine,” explained the voice from the dais. The dark man was staring at his opened hand, slowly rotating and flexing his fingers with obvious curiosity. “It is good wine, in fact. Very good wine.”
“I have the best of many things, you see. The best food. The best clothes. The best spices. The best men.” He began to stroke his mustaches, caressing his chin as he gazed at the prisoner.
The wine was good. It was a strong, full-bodied red. The captive man straightened his back and stared defiantly at the dais. His expression was fierce and terrible. Fear and desperation were there as well, only barely concealed. Barely concealed. To the man on the dais, the black mustached figure, the despair was as obvious as if the prisoner were screaming his fear aloud.
“I have had you tortured. It gives me no pleasure. But, that is not its purpose,” said the man on the platform. He tilted his head and twisted it, popping one of the joints in his neck. He sighed pleasurably. “No, not for pleasure. Nor to punish.”
“Who are you? Some lord? A farmhand?” he continued. “To you and I, it is all the same. You are here now, with me, in this situation. What you do, or what you did, who your parents were – these things will not change where you are. Nor can they affect what will ultimately happen to you.”
“We are alike, you and I.” He examined his legs against the cloth of the dais, plucking a piece of lint from the black fabric. He held it to the light, squinting to examine it further. “We are made of the same stuff – meat and bone and thought. Yes, we are alike. But, we are so VERY different.”
At this point, the man arose, dropping the lint to the ground. “For you see, you are only flesh. You do not understand how to escape. How to BE. Perfection lies in BEING. If you could let go, and see beyond yourself, beyond your shell, you could know what I know. That vastness of what IS. The pain that you feel? That is not real. The aching bones in your arms? They are not real. You have no concept of being.” The man closed his eyes and leaned back against one of the marble columns. He rested his head back onto a patched lit by a single column of light.
“Did you love? You might have had a wife, a family. You no longer do, of that I am certain. My men tore them apart before your very eyes. I instructed them to do so.” The captive man crumbled at these words, and the dark man opened his eyes and glared at the prisoner.
“Did you love them? Who were they? They were parts of what IS. Just as are your chains, or this building, or a random stone. Those people are no longer what they were. Their roles in the vastness of Everything has changed, just as yours will soon.”
“Make no mistake. I am going to kill you,” said the dark man as walked slowly down the steps.
“Why? Well, I have been given a gift. I understand that everything is a part of the Whole. We are all of us caught in a web of what IS. Living, breathing, being — this is all a joyous, impossible miracle!” He fondled the tasseled end of his tasseled belt, as if delighting in the feel for the first time. “The fact that this exists,” he dangled the tassel for accent. “the fact that it exists at all is a pure joy. It resonates through every part of Everything, like a thousand thousand children singing together.”
He dropped the rope, and his face momentarily distorted into a rage. “This is what I have been given — the gift of understanding, the ability to recognize the Joy that exists. Always. Everywhere.” He dropped his chin to his chest and closed his eyes. He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly several times.
Slowly he raised his head and continued speaking. Almost whispering, he said, “And I hate it all.” He opened his eyes. “I serve a power that is opposed to what IS. To all of what IS.” His breathing quickened as he kneeled before the terrified prisoner. “And what does this have to do with you? Why am I telling you any of this? I am NOT telling you. I am telling the world. I am telling those in this room – spies and fanatics and schemers and fools. I am showing that I will oppose what IS. I will corrupt and pervert and torture Being until It surrenders to the Void!” He punctuated the last word with a quick flick of a blade across the captive’s throat, and he watched the light fade from the dying eyes.