“Well King . . . Janitor, this is all really, really amazing, but I’m just the accountant.”
He nods and you watch the disappointment creep over his face. For a moment you feel a spasm of guilt at letting him down, but it passes. He steeples his many fingers above the desk in front of him and his disappointment changes into a sad smile.
“You are one tough pzange to crack.”
“It’s similar to a chicken egg on your planet.”
“Oh,” you laugh. “Wait, why do you say that?” you ask, confused.
“There are many reasons Wallace. Are you sure you won’t change your mind? I think ruling our planet would suit you.”
“Yeah . . . no can do, your Janitorship,” you say, setting the Rubik's-cube-looking-thing on his desk and standing. “Would you just take me back out to the lobby? I should probably look for the basketball players. Charles Barclay is married to the president’s daughter, you know?”
Momentarily you worry that you might’ve said too much.
“But of course. Why do you think Team Earth is staying in this hotel?”
“Oh,” you say again and wonder how he thinks you could make a good leader.
“No worries young Wallace. I can get you a room right next to the players, if you’d like. Come here. I’d like to show you something first.” He stands and walks over to a wall.
Relieved, you walk over. “Sure. Thanks.”
He quickly presses his fingers on the wall, making music with an invisible device. When his fingers stop moving a part of the wall slides away, revealing a room. In the room is your fondest dream.
There is a beach, the white sand lined against a Caribbean blue ocean for as far as you can see, the Earth’s sun setting on the horizon. A wave rolls toward the shore and crashes a few feet in front of you. Some of the water hits your face. With a hand, you reach up and touch the wetness then press the finger to your tongue. It tastes of salt. The smell of the ocean air enters your nose and the sound of seagulls in the distance reaches your ears.
You take a step forward, ready to run into the surf, but remember where you are and look back. “How . . .?” you ask.
“I can make anything possible,” he says, smiling, but with a note of seriousness in his tone.
You know your face is filled with wonder. --And that you should be getting back. But just a few minutes on the beach won’t hurt, you think.
“Why don’t you go? In ten minutes I’ll bring you back.” He waves you forward, encouraging you.
Knowing you may never get this chance again, you say, “Okay.”
As soon as you step across the threshold, the wall slides closed, but you don’t care. You run to the water’s edge, removing shoes and socks as you go.
From behind there is a clicking sound, but you’re paying it no mind. You are so close to the water—the ocean you’ve dreamed of. Excitedly, you stick your feet into the water, ready for the crisp coolness you’ve always heard about.
It’s strange though. It seems slimier than you expected . . .but you smile at fulfilling your dream and say, “The ocean.”
“The ocean.” You hear hundreds of whispers from behind, copying your words over and over.
Surprised, you turn around and the room goes black.
Except for hundreds of blood red eyes.
“What’s going on? King?”
You feel tiny pin pricks all over your body.
“King.” Hundreds of whispers parrot the word from every direction. And the eyes are dancing everywhere. You smell something too: putrefied flesh.
“Please,” you beg, wishing you’d decided to be king or had chosen to join the marine biologists on planet Zarthus --but you can’t do anything about it. You suddenly fall backward to the ground and can’t get up.
The blood red eyes swarm you. You can feel jagged little claws and hairy bodies scurrying all over your body, hear the ripping and tearing away of your clothing, and all the while they are whispering secrets -- about Malloy, about the president, about your family, about Earth, and about what really happened the night you hit your head. They know everything.
And then the clicking sound starts again. You have no idea what is making it, but the whispering has stopped. The furry bodies have frozen where they stand.
They seem to be waiting for something, and finally it comes: a voice so beautiful, it sends hot tears to yours eyes. “Feed, my children.”
When the first one takes a bite, it’s from your arm. It stings, but of course you can’t scream. By the hundredth bite, you would have thought you’d be numb. Not so. You feel it all. The flesh tearing. The muscles ripping from the bone. The tendons and sinews breaking and snapping. It’s as though something has been done to keep you awake—to keep you conscious—to allow you to experience every ounce of pain and drop of blood that leaves your body.
They keep you alive for what seems like a long time. Could be hours, or maybe days.
When they finally allow you to die, they say as one, “Good-bye, Wallace.”