Dienstag, 7. März 2017

DEATH AND LOVE IN THE KINGDOM

DEATH AND LOVE IN THE KINGDOM

by Constantin von Hoffmeister


"We all die."
-- Mr. Maggot

It has been rumored that, among other things, according to myth, there once existed a fabled kingdom of such innumerable riches that any weary traveller who happened to encounter the citadel of its capital would rub his eyes in wonder and amazement. Once Jonathan Ingwersoll, a poor merchant from Providence, Rhode Island, came upon the shore of this miraculous country. He stepped off the ship in the marbled harbor and ventured straight to the nearest tavern to slacken his thirst for beer and knowledge of these strange shores. The devil knew not what beset him when he asked a local harlot what the meaning of the strange symbol above the entrance of the tavern door might be. The harlot, accustomed to the ways of coarse sailors and brute negroes from the southernmost lands of the Dark Continent, pretended to be dumbfounded by such an obviously ignorant question.

"Well, don't you know, poor sailor?" asked the harlot.

"I certainly do not, you wench," said Jonathan.

"I can tell you only what I have heard rumored among the sailors and the ragged captains of ebony vessels. The symbol is the sign of the Great Cthulhu!" she said.

"Ah, and who might that be? A deity worshipped before the advent of the Great Savior?" asked Jonathan.

"Oh no, a deity mightier and more real than the bearded one indeed, poor sailor," said the harlot.

Jonathan lifted his diamond-encrusted mug to his lips and took one long leisurely swig.

"Ah, that feels better, my parched throat desired this golden nectar, and my soul desireth knowledge beyond worldly matters. Your words intrigue me greatly, pretty wench," said Jonathan, "please tell me more."

"I can tell you all I know for a fair price," said the harlot.

"I shall not hide what is due you if the information pleaseth me," said Jonathan.

"And you do not look that you have means at all, poor sailor," said the harlot.

"My appearance belies my means, dear wench," said Jonathan, "thus continue your tale."

"Ah, I feel the hammer when it strikes," the harlot giggled and continued her tale.

"It has been told that aeons ago, many thousand moons ago, there was no city here, no country and no people. There was a waste land of barren dunes and leafless trees as high as any tower in Cwambria today. Creatures roamed this waste land, their noses long and sharp, their beaks twisted like an elephant's tusk after a fight with a deordrodee. These creatures, tall as a house, had the power to speak through their thoughts. They decided that it was best for them to build shelter from the storm that was fast approaching. The creatures knew that this storm would wreak havoc on a scale previously unseen and unheard of on this earth. The creatures thus built a city with buildings taller than the leafless trees and streets wider than the fields upon which men today play horgbey. And from thence the creatures lived in this city, creating new cities and connecting them all with streets wider than the fields upon which men today play horgbey. Many such cities were scattered all across the waste land. Then the storm came. All the cities were able to withstand the fierce force of the storm.

"And the creatures continued to thrive in their giant cities. The cyclopean nature of the cities is still evident today. Some outlines of the giant cities remain in the deserts and steppes south of our kingdom. Our kingdom's capital was built directly on the ruins of the creature's capital, thus erasing all traces of the giant capital's shape or form. Round it must have been because our capital is round. The trees now have leaves and are small. No remains of the creatures have ever been found, although many explorers have unearthed numerous artefacts of the creature's thriving civilization. One of these artefacts hangs above the door to this tavern. The tavern-keeper legally purchased it at an auction where all kinds of rich folk where bidding for the inheritance of Mr. John Prestingworth, an explorer of note from one of our fine learning establishments."

"And whence the name Great Cthulhu?" enquired Jonathan.

"Ah, that is because the tavern-keeper is obsessed with the writings of a man who knew all about love. The writer's name suggests that he was well versed in the art of love."

"A connoisseur of the Kamasutra, I reckon?" asked Jonathan.

"The Kama what?" asked the harlot.

"I have just arrived from the legendary country of Hindustan where men make love like elephants at dusk," said Jonathan and finished his beer.

The golden spire of the capital's citadel glistened in the moonlight.

What nobody in the tavern knew was that at the same time a barbarian was stealthily climbing up the tower of the citadel. His rope was fastened on the hooked wings of a griffon. The barbarian was holding onto the rope while climbing up the tower of the citadel. In his backpack was a flask of deadly green poison. On his side a broadsword dangled. The barbarian's name was Irshun, and he descended from a long line of barbarians from the northernmost steppes of the Arctic peninsula. His father had been a barbarian and had become famous in the battle for Isfahan's independence. Irshun was five years old when Lord Mortar with his minions invaded his village and slaughtered his family in front of his innocent eyes. The gun had not been invented in those years. Irshun grew strong as a slave in the Mines of Muntar in the Mountains of Morbidity. When he was fifteen, he was bought by a rich gentleman from Verona, Italy. He was forced to fight gladiatorial duels for the delight and amusement of the gentlemen and ladies of Verona.

The arena was not on his mind while climbing up the tower of the citadel. Instead his mind was focused on the goal ahead: to seize the most precious diamond of all - the Eye of Iris! Irshun reached the top of the tower of the citadel and rested for five minutes, pondering his next move. He recoiled the rope and put it in his backpack. Then he broke down the door with his massive muscled body. A giant spider was awaiting him in the aperture! With several strokes of his broadsword he deflected the giant spider's nefarious attack and cut it into pieces. Six hairy black legs and a hairy black body were strewn across a wet floor littered with diamonds and gold coins. Where was the Eye of Iris? Like a character in the forgotten novel DOWN AND OUT IN HADES, Irshun pondered the meaning of existence while imagining a cruel scene of torture and depravity. At the end of the room was a wooden box with a bronze lock. Irshun also poisoned the king of the kingdom with the deadly green poison before returning to the Arctic peninsula where he founded a family of his own and lived happily ever after.

It was five in the morning and the bells of the belfry rang out five times.

"Time to get up and cook some breakfast for the little ones," mumbled the harlot in her bed of straw.

She got up, splashed water on her weary face and prepared breakfast for the little ones, her two twin sons, aged five.

"Mummy loves you," said the harlot when her two twin sons, named Michael and Morochel, entered the kitchen.

"We love you too, mummy," said the twin sons.

The eggs tasted rotten, and they were rotten. Two days later the harlot's twin sons died of the aftereffects of severe food poisoning. The funeral was uneventful. It rained, and only the harlot and seven of her harlot friends attended the funeral service. An old priest with a long white beard recited passages from the ancient texts. The harlot cried, and the raindrops mingled with her tears on her scarlet funeral dress. A grinning bleached skull above the cemetery gate reminded its visitors of the fleeting nature of life. After the eight harlots had left the cemetery grounds, the groundskeeper threw wet earth on the coffin while smoking a Cuban cigar. His name was Mr. Maggot and he felt like one too most of the time. His only solace was to drink cheap sailor's rum in the evening at the harbor tavern. Every evening he saw his sorrows disappear in a never-ending maelstrom of brown liquid. He finished glass after glass and stumbled home to sleep the sleep of the sleepless.

"Have you seen the fish-head man?" asked the innocent little girl.

"No, I have not," answered the innocent little boy.

The fish-head man lived alone in a barrel down at the edge of the harbor. He descended from a race of fish-head men that preceded the race of men. He was amphibian by nature and could breathe underwater. He could swim great distances at great speed, and sometimes he wrestled sharks and strangled dolphins. He only ate tuna. He worshipped Poseidon whom he had never met personally. He always kept a trident at his side for tradition's sake. The Dragon was not the fish-head man's friend because the Dragon breathed fire, and the fish-head man was mortally afraid of fire. His element was water. The sea was his true home, the barrel only his temporary abode.

"The world ended not with a whimper but with a whine," said the cemetery groundskeeper, referring to the demise of the creatures' civilization.

"Sobbing into a glass of wine never helped the cause of the fertile when doomed to extinction," said the tavern-keeper.

"Ah, 'tis true," sobbed the cemetery groundskeeper, his glass of rum empty but a few drops of his tears.

Two years later the fish-head man was exhibited in an aquarium only twice his size in freak shows all over the kingdom. People came from far and wide to gape at him mockingly. A lady bought red shoes and a red dress for a ball in the citadel.

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