The King looked over the parapet at his kingdom’s failing crops and declared, “God has forsaken us.”
His Chief Minister, Jimmy de Weasel, pulled a lavender scented handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at the corners of his mouth where dry spittle collected like flecks of porridge in an unwashed bowl. He could scarcely believe his ears.
“My Lord, whatever do you mean?”
King Hamster the 1st turned to his most trusted advisor, his closest friend, his fellow animal lover, and breathed in deeply to contain the tears that welled in his eyes. He’d had this feeling for a long time, that God was no longer listening, absent from the land and his thoughts. He needed to express himself to Jimmy, but to actually say these words out loud felt like he was finally making them a fact. Perhaps he should keep his fears locked inside, deep in his gut, along with his ulcer and his bubbling reflux?
“Forget what I said. It was just a moment of doubt.”
Jimmy stroked his long, red bread and noticed how much of it came loose in his hand. He watched as a stiff breeze captured his whiskers and danced them away into the grey sky. It was obvious the King had something on his mind, and Jimmy was keen to find out what he meant.
“My Lord, I know something troubles you, I can hear it in your raspy voice. I can see it in your crumbling posture. I can smell it on your decaying breath. Be honest with me, the kingdom is in trouble, am I correct?”
The King nodded.
“Come, walk with me.”
The two old friends walked down the stairs and made their way to the front gate. The two guards stumbled to a standing position and attempted a half hearted salute. Jimmy couldn’t tell if they were drunk or depressed or both. The King waved them off and both guards returned to their original positions, looking like discarded, stringless marionettes.
When they arrived at the gates, the King pushed the bolts loose and swung the wrought iron open to reveal the town that lived outside the castle walls. Most of the buildings were in a state of disrepair. The fountain barely held itself together, cracks reaching from the bottom all the way to the top, the water long evaporated. Over to the side, the bakery no longer produced the yummiest of smells. Instead all it had to offer was some red painted graffiti that read, “Hamster sux.”
“I don’t know what offends me more,” said the King. “That they hate me or they don’t know how to spell sucks.”
Jimmy nodded. The education system was also in disarray. Jimmy wanted to ask questions, prod him gently to speak, but he knew the King couldn’t abide silence and would open up soon enough. They stood in silence, so silent that the King could hear the faintest of farts Jimmy thought he could get away with. They looked at each other and Jimmy grinned embarrassingly. As they watched a tumbleweed roll past them, well before it would become a cliché in cowboy times, the King finally broke and opened his heart to his loyal friend.
“Do you remember the good old days?” the King asked as he kicked the dirt.
“Do you mean the Stone Age or the Bronze Age, sire?”
“I mean all of them! Stone, Bronze, Iron, Early Middle ages…what magnificent times,” the King said. “We were progressing so beautifully, winning wars abroad, opening up trading routes with Ragnar and his Viking fellows. Our taverns were constantly full and expanding. I felt like we were invincible.”
“I remember those times well,” said Jimmy. “It felt like those ages just passed by so quickly.”
“I know,” agreed the King. “And it felt like God was always here, always looking down upon us, aiding us in our endeavours to grow and expand. Then one day I felt like God was…gone.”
“Gone?” said Jimmy. “How could God be gone?”
The King moved his head to one side and then to the next, his spine cracking like a kid setting off a round of fire crackers. He knew it sounded crazy but he also knew his feeling of dread was correct.
“There is an absence in the kingdom, an absence in my heart,” said the King. “One day God was there, then…nada. I wonder where God has gone.”
Jimmy picked up a smooth rock and threw it across the ground, disappointed it didn’t skip to the end of the street. Then he remembered he used to do that down at the pond, not on the gravel. He shook his head. Mother would be so disappointed that he’d grown up to be such a gormless idiot.
“Maybe we did something to anger God,” said Jimmy.
“Or maybe God is dead?”
“Blasphemy!” said Jimmy.
“Well, what would you prefer?” countered the King. “That God is dead or we did something wrong that inspired the Creator to abandon us?”
Jimmy thought for a moment.
“Nah, you’re right. It’s heaps better if he’s dead.”
They looked back at the castle just in time to see one of the turrets collapse inwards like an under cooked cake. The King sighed.
“We are constantly raided by barbarians and thieves,” he said. “The army are useless and uninspired. Nobody comes to polish our monuments anymore.”
“Is that a euphemism?” asked Jimmy.
“I mean that as a metaphor and a fact,” the King replied. “I lay awake at night, drenched in existential dread, that this is all meaningless now that we live in a Godless world. That our achievements were for naught. That all those victories on the battlefield were ultimately hollow.”
“Oh my King,” said Jimmy. “This is some really depressing shit.”
The King nodded.
“I know. Soon Morritown will be no more and we will be forgotten. It is, how does the Jester say it, a real shit sandwich of a situation.”
Jimmy looked at the King and held out his hand.
“I’m so sorry, my Lord.”
“So am I, Jimmy the Weasel, so am I.”
Later that afternoon, Harry Morrison threw his arms up in the air.
“Fuck me!” said Gary.
His co-worker and best friend, James Weasley, looked over the partition.
Harry pointed to his computer screen where an email flashed at him.
“Remember when I got super addicted to that stupid app, the one where you build an empire through the ages?”
James nodded and scratched at his red beard, the short hairs seeming to stay in place.
“Yeah. Didn’t you delete it from your phone?”
“I did,” said Harry. “But they keep sending me emails reminding me that King Hamster the 1st needs me. Ugh. I know it’s a stupid game…”
“That you spent over $700 on,” reminded James.
“…right. That I spent over $700 on and now I feel bad for leaving them in the lurch.”
“You’re an idiot. It’s just a game.”
“I know, I know. But I still feel bad for them. I wonder what they’re thinking down there? Maybe I should just check in, y’know, to see if they need any…”
James looked at Harry like he was speaking a foreign language.
“It’s a fucking game,” said James.
“Ok, ok, I’m deleting the email…and blocking them as well.”
“I think it is for the best,” said James, sitting back down on his side of the partition. The two men returned to their work, totally oblivious to the tumbleweed that rolled right through their office and back out into the world.
Copyright Justin Hamilton 2019