t's Ten AM sir," Lucius called from beside me in an eccentric German accent, book in hands and pen at the ready. Lucius didn't have that accent when he first came into my service, but an off-hand wish of boredom had soon set that straight.
"Alright," I sighed wearily to the guards marshaled before me at the foot of the steps to my throne, "open the doors, let them in."
The ten long, three deep formation of my court guard saluted in perfect unison to my echoing command, before performing a synchronized about-turn and marching along the white marble floor. As four guards made for the barricaded doors at the end of the throne room to unlock and open them, the rest of the contingent fell in to position: two symmetrical rows of silent and burly warriors either side of the lustrous black rug that ran from steps to door. As the last men took their place, the hall rumbled with the sound of enormous, well greased bolts being drawn open. The four men, two to a door, heaved quietly and pulled the foot-thick doors wide in a slow and purposeful motion. Initially I had instructed them to do it for effect, but now it seemed a trivial waste of time.
"Approach" I commanded, trying and failing to sound regal over the soul-crushing despair I felt. Who would have thought being king of the world was a bad gig?
With the doors a column of people solemnly trudged through in single file - well dressed and well groomed, yet each unable to bring a glimmer of life to the myriad of dead eyes I saw every day. Truthfully, I had not seen a content person in months. Every day, a new problem, request or weeping beg that set my stomach in twists with the desire to help, ultimately blocked by a flaccid inability to do so. A year ago, the discovery of having a 'gift' so potent as to render any wish spoken true, had inevitably led to some wishes that on hindsight were best left to the imagination.
To forever be king of the world? Sure. Great on paper. Not so great when seven billion worrywarts now look to you for answers. An end to world hunger? Nice one. Except with no reason to eat, the people lost the passion and desire for something so redundant as food, birthing a near tasteless world. Looking back on life and how it was, I lament the stupidity and simple-mindedness of all those beauty pageant contestants and their ill-conceived notions at wishing for an end to world hunger or peace on earth.
"Milord?" croaked a feeble voice.
I snapped out of my listless thoughts and turned my attention to the source of the word. Before me, at the foot of the twenty steps below my throne stood a feeble and wizened old gentlemen leaning on a pleasantly carved cane. Underneath his pressed beige suit I spied a sallow yellow skin wrapped around a thin and malnourished form. For a moment I thought he might be hungry, until I remembered Facepalm #4 - an end to world hunger.
"How can I serve you sir?" I opened with my bog-standard greeting. It was as poignant a greeting as I could muster. A king is nothing but the slave with the most PR. This whole ruling lark really puts the 'cynic' in 'cynical bastard'.
The old man swayed for a moment before speaking, "Milord, I come to you with a grave and most humble request-"
"I cannot kill you I'm afraid" I interrupted, not without kindness: I did not want to waste his time. The gentlemen blinked in confusion, no doubt curious as to how I knew what he was about to ask. I jerked a thumb at a large stone tablet nailed to the wall behind my throne. The elderly man squinted, straining his eyes to catch the wording above.
I cleared my throat, "Unfortunate Wish #3; an end to death."
The old man scratched the side of his head, a blank look on his face. I sighed, he wasn't going to get it without help.
"Neville, right. Well Neville, you know how the wishes work, right?"
"Yes milord," Neville nodded, a simple, almost dopey smile playing across his face, "you make a wish, and the wish is granted. I humbly request that you-"
Lucius caught my sigh and took over the tedious explanation, "The problem is Neville, that a year ago our benevolent king discovered his omnipotent gift for wishes. In his," I cleared my throat, feeling the embarrassment rise again, "in his excited youth he made a few hasty wishes that, looking back on, had some unfortunate 'terms and conditions' if you will. One of those wishes, as inscribed on the stone behind his majesty, was an end to death."
Neville nodded again, still smiling. I couldn't tell if he was mocking me or if he just did that, like how young kids would nod and smile to their grandparents when in reality they weren't listening at all.
"Good Neville," I continued, "this means that if I wished for you to die, it would not come to pass, as you are already protected by a past wish. I cannot undue past wishes."
The smile on his face flickered, the notion finally worming its way into his conscious. "So, I cannot die?" he inquired slowly. I threw him a thumbs up in confirmation. He went quiet, looking at his feet in contemplation. I caught the eyes of the guard nearest him and looked at my watch in a meaningful manner. I hated to be rude, but the queues were especially long on a Tuesday, since I had wished for Monday to be a part of the weekend. The guard nodded and approached Neville, tapping him on the shoulder and gesturing at me in a 'he's waiting' manner. Neville returned his gaze to me, eyes now coated with a watery glaze. Grand.
"So... I have to live with this disease, eating away at my body forever?"
I frowned, "Disease, you say?"
Neville inclined his head, a tear rolling slowly down his sharp cheek, "Liver disease, milord" he responded with a wavering voice.
I looked over at Lucius and motioned him with a finger. Lucius stepped over smartly and bent at the waist, leveling his ear with my mouth.
"Did I not wish for disease to stop too?" I whispered in his ear from the corner of my mouth. Lucius licked the tip of his index finger before flicking through the pages of his tome with a scanning eye. After a few moments he shook his head, closing the book.
"Cancer, harmful viruses, degenerative afflictions, the flu and the 'zombie virus', all stopped by your benevolence milord," Lucius noted in a hushed tone, "however I fear you may specified a stop in your wish rather than an end." I curled my lip in middling disgust at myself. Great, another one. Had I taken the time to word the bloody wish properly, I could have ended Neville's suffering months ago. Instead, I put an eternal pause on his wasting disease, forever dooming him to his rather gruesome stage of ailment. I motioned faithful Lucius away and rubbed a temple with a bitter hand.
"My deepest apologies Neville, but while your disease will never get worse, I am afraid it'll never recede either."
Poor Neville caught his breath as the words hit him and his balance faltered. Fortunately, one of my guard had spotted the motion and had stepped to his side to catch him. I cast a thankful look at the guard, "Please take him to the recuperation hall and allow him some rest." A poor state of affairs when you have to dedicate an entire hall to the grieving and disappointed. As the guard assist the now weeping Neville aside, I motioned the next person forward.
"Milord." spoke a deep voice, accompanied by a bow.
"Ah Thomas, welcome" I replied, feeling some cheer return to an already bleak morning. It was good to see a familiar face once in a while, especially one that I had actually managed to help. "What can I assist you with today?"
"Well milord, it's about the previous wish." Thomas called hesitantly from the bottom of the stairs, eyes forlorn beneath his heavy brow. I motioned for him to continue, vaguely remembering something about a dysfunction I had resolved. "You're wish worked wondrously, and I am eternally grateful, however... the effects..."
I raised an eyebrow. Something about his request was coming back to me, something I couldn't quite place. A hazy memory, one that I felt I should remember.
"Yes?" I asked, more than a little suspicious.
"The effects milord, they are permanent." he said, looking downward.
It was only then that I noticed the outline of Thomas' enormous erection pressing dangerously against the seam of his trousers.
Fucking hell, another one.