The Emperor, the omnipotent and omniscient ruler of all he surveyed, woke in a cold sweat, tangled in his bed sheets. What a horrible nightmare. He had dreamt that he was a character in something called a YA novel, whatever that might be, and that his unquestioned authority was, in fact, being questioned by a fringe group of adolescents who plotted his overthrow.
Mehta Fixxion had not clawed and murdered his way to absolute power only to be undone by a pack of teenagers, especially since—in the dream at least—they were obviously rebelling against their parents, making him a convenient scapegoat. Certainly, he engaged in whims, such as staging gladiator contests between the chemistry and history departments of the schools in his realm.
What was the point of being a tyrant if you couldn’t settle scores with the people who had hurt you in the past? It worked out well.
The chemists had the advantage—it was useful to know how to make explosives—and now, school children no longer learned the history of what things were like before he came to power. One would think they’d be grateful. Yet, the dream had seemed so real.
The Emperor summoned his trusted head of the secret police, Norman, to see what could be done. Norman was an odd name for one of the most feared men in Capital City, the capital city of Dictatoria, but it kept him humble. Fixxion made sure he was amply rewarded, had access to bed partners of several sexes, and received an unusual tax cut in which the state paid him whatever amount he theoretically owed. The Emperor was the only person with more power than Norman, and he wanted to make certain that Norman remained loyal.
Donning his navy-blue robe trimmed with ermine, Fixxion took the side door from his elaborate bedroom—which doubled as both a ballroom and a torture chamber, depending on his mood—and went to his more intimate consulting room, which could comfortably seat fifty. Norman waited for him.
“Good morning,” said Norman, although the sun had yet to rise, “O great Emperor Fixxion, all-seeing and all-knowing, whose guiding hand ensures the stability and prosperity of Dictatoria, and whose every action and utterance has profound…”
“Yes, yes, let’s get on with it.” The Emperor cut off Norman with the wave of his hand. The full, formal greeting could easily have gone on for half an hour or more, especially as Norman began the elaborate choreography that went with it. “Please be seated.”
“How may I serve you, Your Magnificence?” Norman asked, without a hint of toadying. Truth be told, Norman seemed perfectly happy with his present status. To most of the citizens of Dictatoria, he was just a name. He gave no press conferences. There were no public appearances. Other than the Emperor, those who saw him once seldom lived to see him a second time. It did exacerbate the servant problem, but the slave labor camps kept up a ready supply of replacements.
“Do you believe in the predictive power of dreams?” said Fixxion, still not entirely calm after his nightmare.
Norman responded with a thoughtful look. “I suppose that depends on how his Imperial Majesty feels. I would hesitate to draw a conclusion without first giving due consideration to the infallible word of…”
Fixxion sighed. Sometimes it was not good to be the king.
Veteran film critic Daniel M. Kimmel was the Boston correspondent for Variety and currently reviews for NorthShoreMovies.net and Space and Time magazine. He is the author of several books including Jar Jar Binks Must Die…and other observations about science fiction movies, a Hugo finalist for “best related work,” and the novels: Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide, shortlisted for the Compton Crook Award for best first novel, and Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. His short story appearances include After the Happily Ever After and On Fire (both from Transmundane Press), Alternate Truths, Science Fiction Stories for the Throne, and Beyond Steampunk, as well as the website HollywoodDementia.com. His latest book is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein.