This is a dark tale on the dangers of courting evil………
A row of implements lined the far wall, all of them designed for torture of one kind or another. In front of these, a table stretched the full width of the dungeon. Upon it sat more tools and devices, more opportunities for pain.
The king ran a finger over these, as if he were removing dust from any normal household ornament. A sly smile revealed corroded teeth that breached an otherwise handsome face, and he paused at one particular item: a small box with four mechanical pincers on each corner. Made from solid silver and quite weighty, the box featured diamond patterns on the top surface, increasing in size as in a ripple of water. He handled it gently, slowly taking in every contour, savouring the feel of it.
“This is perfect, my dear. We will soon be there,” he exclaimed.
“One more experience of pleasure-pain in this existence and we will be free,” replied the queen, a hint of excitement in her voice.
“It will be a good death. My only grievance is that I cannot arrive at the same time as you.” He smiled at her.
“Do not worry. You will not be long after me; we will soon be reunited.”
The queen was strapped to a rack by the dungeon entrance, the torchlight causing her shadow to dance against the wall. The tight silk gown she wore accentuated her slim features, giving her an almost vulnerable quality, only denied by her malevolent stare.
“Start it now, my King. We will soon be in paradise,” she begged, a hint of a smile curling the top of her lip.
“We shall leave this sorry mess behind. Our reward waits on the other side,” he said, pressing a button on the side of the box. A few seconds later, a motor whirred as the pincers snapped repeatedly. Soon, the diamond pattern began to glow and throb, causing him to squint as he looked at the small object.
“I am told by the guard that the pain a person feels gives rise to a sudden and prolonged euphoria,” she remarked, almost casually. “But is it really necessary for me to be strapped in?”
“Yes,” replied the king, “as others I have witnessed initially resisted. This way you will be guaranteed the full experience.”
He looked to the small window above the utensils and gadgets. Outside, howls of pain, the clash of swords ringing together and the thump of pounding feet provided the soundscape. The peasants had taken the opportunity to storm the castle while a large portion of the army had been called away to settle a dispute on the northern borders – a dispute that the king and queen had actually manufactured themselves.
Turning to her once again, the king matched his queen’s doughy expression, happy and resplendent with love.
“Please, now. I can wait no longer,” begged the queen. “We have left a land in turmoil and fulfilled the prophecy!”
“I will do it now, my love,” he assured her.
As the king held his wife’s hand, a tear welled in his eye while he took a deep breath. Then, with a scream he slammed the box into her chest, watching wide-eyed as the pincers cracked through bone and clamped on her heart; they worked furiously, like manic spiders massaging the surface. Her wails reverberated off the stone walls, drowning out the sounds of battle.
Soon, however, she started laughing hysterically, as if little hands tickled her from within.
Her husband stepped back, trembling, seemingly overcome with anguish. “No, this is too much to bear. What have I… we done?” he hollered.
“Do not fear the ecstasy,” his wife said, as her body tensed and released in time to the repeated biting of the pincers. “It is beautiful.”
Suddenly, he spun away from her, his shoulders heaving as a broad smile grew on his previously horrified face. “This cannot be. To see you like this… I fear I will not be able to join you,” he said, fighting a rising mirth.
“The pleasure does outweigh that initial torment,” she replied. “You must; we made this vow when we married.” She grimaced more as the clamps gripped tighter, and her toes and fingers started to curl as aggressive charges ripped through her entire body. The box shone violently, becoming near-white against her rosy skin.
“I cannot bear the thought of looking at you,” he whispered, his voice now having a more eldritch quality about it: hollow and spooky.
Concern washed over her as she grimaced through the unbearable anxiety. “Are you okay, my King?” she retched.
“I am fine.”
She noticed his eyes had changed to a mucus yellow colour, and that he had a thin red slit instead of a pupil. Taking short, sharp breaths to curtail the escalating ache, the queen regarded her beloved’s new look and attitude. “What is this? And what… have you become? This pain… this pain… is too… much!”
“To experience real agony you must first remove the ecstasy,” boomed the demon king, his smile now an eerie grin. Think of this while the war rages on outside; a war that you caused. Pain and suffering will eat your Empire from within!” he laughed – a deep, low laugh that was almost like a growl.
“But… you… made the choices with me!” the queen pleaded.
“I merely fuelled your desire and no more. Just think! All those lives lost, because of you.”
“What about us? We…both knew our time…had come. We were meant to be together!” she cried, a slightly hysterical edge to her voice now.
Pulsating waves of phenomenal fear caused her brain to pound violently. She looked down at the box – was it capable of feeding off her emotions? As the pincers feverishly devoured her, she let out an acute shrill.
“You will still be going to the place we talked about, though I doubt it is the idea of paradise you have come to idealise. I shall be there in due course, but I have much work to do here first,” the demon said with a sweep of his arm.
“I do not understand. What are you?” she whimpered.
He leaned in, mere centimetres from her face. The queen screwed her mouth and eyes tight as an acidic, pungent breath burned her skin, and she yelled in agony as dissolving tissue gave way to bone.
The demon ogled her with deep fascination, a long, darting tongue emerging to lick cracked lips as he ripped the box clean from her chest, along with her still beating heart.
Grinning, he held it aloft. “I am the dream of your nightmare, my dear.”