Benny Varotta – Kingdom Come, Kingdom Went, Better Things to Come

My bed was my dominion, my kingdom, my throne. I would curl up in robes of feathers, caressing the silk of my skin. Every thread kissed me softly and I’d lay my crown atop a field of down, as I dreamed of coin and gems—emeralds, rubies, sapphires—the earth, the sun, the sea. I used to be a king—the leader of my land. I could come and go as I pleased, and that is what I was: pleased. I ate supper in the dining hall, and worked my way around the land and its people, smiling as I passed and they smiled back at me: the king! My robes dragged behind me in the dirt, and I pointed my golden scepter at the stars and I sang:

“I’ll be there one day with you all! Among the stars and across the sky! I will be there one day, mark my words, one day soon, I will be there with you.”

Every day I would go into the kingdom, and collect my coin, and every night, I would see the stars—their white shine like teeth and tile. Every night I would return to my bed, to my throne, to my domain, and I would rest again. One night I dreamed of men—thousands of men with pitchforks and fire, dirty and ridden with bugs, covered in dirty sacks and rags brown like mud, ripped and torn to pieces. They came for my coin. they came for my throne and my crown and my gems. They came for the earth, and the sun, and the sea. They came and they came and they did not stop until I, the king, became as torn and poor as they. And then I woke, covered in sweat and fear, the night still black and blue outside my castle window. A star shot across the sky, and in the distance, across the land, the faint flicker of orange and yellow. I felt the heat from my bed, and I knew it was no longer a dream. My kingdom had been, and my kingdom lived no more.

And now my bed is my sarcophagus, my coffin, my end. I am mummified now, penniless and covered in wraps filthy with dirt and sand. My skin is rotting and mushy, cold and moist to the touch. My scent is sour as if my body was out in the sun I once loved for too long, but the room is pitch dark—a tomb for my heart that breaks with each passing day. I can’t get out of this casket. For dinner I eat spoiled meat and infested produce, slobbering on their flesh, scattering the pieces across the crypts.

I want to leave, I really do, but I am trapped—I’m trapped in this hole in the dirt, and I try to scratch at the walls but my fingers are raw and the skin is falling off, and the hole gets deeper and darker the more I claw. If I listen closely I can hear the voices, so soft and sweet, I bet they taste like candy. I try to yell, yell at them, but the chamber echoes a deep drone and no one can hear me. Nobody comes to my aid. Can they not hear me suffering? Can they not hear my wails and my cries?

I have nothing to my name, no money, no love, no escape—just these wraps and these scraps and this empty grave all to myself. My anxieties disguise themselves as tiny scuttling bugs that nibble and crawl underneath my skin and skull. I wonder some days if there is any way out if there is an end to this suffering. I am trapped in my bed and my head and I can’t get out, so the only thing I can do is sleep, but I have not dreamed in months. Some days are better than others, but when night falls, I still lie here in this pit, alone and filled with a blackening void that I cannot help but succumb to. So I close my eyes every night and hope to dream again.

And then one day I did.

It came to me in a flash: a bolt of lightning or a shooting star, I could not tell which, but my body and my soul came to life. And I saw once more, the earth, the sun, and the sea. I flew with the stars in the night, no longer holding a golden scepter, or clad in royal garb or a crown. I donned no dirty wraps or rags. I was just my flesh and my soul, careening through the universe filled with light and life, golden aura beaming from my chest.

In this dream I smiled—I smiled for what felt like the first time in eternities, for however long I was locked up in that wicked tomb. I looked down from the sky and saw the blues and greens of the ocean, so I decided to dive in because I could. I let myself swim around like an underwater missile, waving at the whales and the barnacles wrapped in seaweed. I tasted the salt on my lips and let it wash away the impurities I once thought I owned in my soul and on my skin. The sun beamed in through the layers of ocean water, crystallizing light on impact, shining and shining brighter. So I flew up there, crashing through the waves, up. up, up!

I charged toward the sun with might and hunger, reaching for the light I had forgotten about for so long. I kept going. I kept going because I let myself keep going. I rode farther into the massive yellow orb, punching a hole through it until it burst, sharing its light upon the rest of the universe. And then I woke. No longer a king, no longer a mummy, no longer a god flying through space and time—I was me. And I knew, finally, that I could continue forward and catch that light that shines even when I could not see it. And so I will.

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