Bogleech.com's 2013 Horror Write-off:
"Long Live the King"
Submitted by GlumdropFirst Night
You are staring into total darkness. Then, slowly, a pair of eyes opens to look back at you. The staredown continues, until another pair opens in the darkness, then another, and another at increasingly short intervals. Every time a pair of eyes opens there's a strange noise, barely audible but like a musical note. There's more noise, and just barely, some sort of music begins to play. Maybe the owners of the eyes are singing or humming a tune together. Nothing else happens, just staring and the faint music.
You wake up with a stinging pain in the middle of your head.
The eyes are back, staring. The music is louder now. You can tell it's not just random, it's a song... a marching hymn? Not quite, it's a catchy few notes of some kind. It sounds cheerful. The eyes are coming closer, most definitely "marching" to the music.
You wake only when the eyes are inches away from yours. The pain is back, and worse.
Almost as soon as you close your eyes, the others are back. The tune is clear and jolly, yet somehow menacing, repeating over and over in high voices by the ones you do not see. But that's when the "lights" come on. There are a great many of your captors, swaying, bobbing up and down energetically, too excited to stay in perfect sync with each other. The rest of the place is pinkish-red plains, here and there the occasional bizarre tree. Ahead is some great bulge in the landscape, dotted by two rows of tall, narrow spires.
They take you toward the hill. You wake up not quite remembering what "they" were. The pain is a lot less today.
Back on the march towards the mysterious mountain. Your captors still sing as they push you along with them, far too many to resist or escape from. They aren't armed, there are just so many crowded around you, pushing you along that you can't fight back. They just squish, bump or roll against you, making no attempt at physical harm. You're still their prisoner as the ones in front of you pull you along with their exposed, tentacle-like nerves or stubby limbs. Each is only the size of a small child, but then, there are twice as many as you thought there were.
The mountain ahead begins to split down the middle, between the spires. Inside, beneath a shimmering dome of mucus, is some vast, unearthly city. Of course, the mountain is no more than an eyelid protecting it.
It does seem the appropriate home for, from what you can judge by your captors, a civilization of disembodied eyeballs.
They gave up standing in pairs a while back, but their singing is louder than ever. And, for the first time, you can hear words. It sounds rather like a gaggle of happy children.
Time to meet the Eyeball King,
Greatest of all Eyeball Things,
Come along or feel His sting,
now to meet the Eyeball King!
The pain is gone, but the song remains in your head all day. You notice that it's hard to keep looking straight ahead, but your vision seems just a little better.
The dream always starts from the beginning, though events speed up to where you last left off. The city looms before you, and you enter through a passage in the side of the colossal sclera. When the eye-creatures enter the city with their prisoner, a celebration instantly breaks out. The citizens jump right in with a new verse!
Eyeball Kingdom welcomes thee!
Eyeball King will set you free!
To the castle! You will see!
Eyeball Kingdom welcomes thee!
And a diverse lot they are, at that. The eyes come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some are enormous and roll along slowly, bowling aside the smaller ones who don't seem to care. Some ride on top of these big ones, running in place to keep them rolling. There are goopy chains and clusters of eyes with angelic voices, their jelly quivering with song. They form into arches under which you pass. The city is crafted from miscellaneous ocular tissue, muscle and tendon, occasionally bits of bone. Hummingbird-sized eyes swoop in for a peek at you on veiny wings. Above, towers tipped with great, regal ocular orbs observe quietly. The city, it strikes you, is as organized and lively as any you've been in- granted that all art, culture and economics seem to deal with eyeballs or pieces of them.
Yet there are signs of something grim. Several of the great building and spires have been destroyed. Perhaps a war occured recently, but the damage is of perculiar kinds. Some building are sliced neatly in half, others punctured beyond recognition. The royal palace still stands, sitting on an island in an iris moat.
The song continues:
Eyeball King shall wait for ye;
First know Eyeball History!
Eyeballs prisoners long ago!
So mistreated, Eyeballs go!
Eyeballs flee from land to land,
always danger close at hand!
Always waiting bad surprise...
Every day are fewer eyes!
Eyeballs fear we near the end..
Won't you please be Eyeball friend?
The song has suddenly gotten so much slower and sadder. You find yourself not resisting anymore, even walking along with them. Whatever and whyever they are, you think, don't they deserve a chance? A home?
The drawbridge is beginning to lower on the palace, when a horrific screeching fills the air. Metal scratched across metal. A ripping noise follows, all the eyeballs looking up and shivering, staring in terror. The giant eye-spires blink and flush red, sounding off like air raid sirens.
PERFORATOR PIERCED THE DOME
FLEE BACK TO YOUR EYEBALL HOME
There's something huge perched on the dome above the city, clawing its way through. It plummets down, crashing into the middle of the city with another earsplitting metallic grind. The impact and noise jolt you back to the waking world. The eyes were crying.
You go through the day with an intensifying sense of dread. You snap at everyone and are thoroughly unpleasant at work and as company. You jump at the sound of anything metal.
You try hard to stay awake, but sleep is coming whether you will it or not. You have to go back. What can you do? It doesn't matter, you decide. You will brave the dream.
This time, however, you don't start over, nor do you begin where you left off. You are standing in new ruins, of many of the buildings that were intact last time. The celebration is long over. The bustling marketplace has been laid to waste. Littering the ground are pale, dry things like beached jellyfish. You pick one up. It's the remains of one of them, the eyes. This little one sat on your shoulder as you walked through the city.
You hear scrambling. A number of eyes round a building, frantically stumbling over each other and into things. The castle still stands, and that's where they're headed. They wave and manage to compose something quickly:
No time left, hurry friend!
Eyeball City at it's e-
Something long and sharp reaches around the corner to skewer the stragglers. You see them struggle helplessly on the end of the spine, all in a row. You watch as they're sucked dry of their fluids and shaken off, remains scattering in the wind. Deep inside you swells a hatred.
The empty streets are filled with the shriek of metal as the Perforator appears.
You think you've seen bad art installations like this. Towering over you, it resembles nothing so much as an embodiment of everything sharp. Needles, scissors, syringes, pins, shards of glass, knives and blades of every sort, the occasional jagged tooth, all bound together by massive lengths of razor wire into a monstrosity vaguely reminiscent of octopus and bird. To call it a machine would be to ignore its awareness, its movement, the way it pauses to clean its spikes. Every movement causes some part of itself to scrape against another. How many legs and/or heads it has can't be said for certain, as it crawls and crashes over on itself.
The drawbridge has been lowered to let the survivors in, but now its coming. A distraction, you need to be a distraction at least. You yell and scream, throw rocks at the behemoth, but it has no interest in you. It is destructive but deliberate. There has to be something you can do, you can't let it go on. It will kill them all!
Your next idea comes as the natural thing to do, the only thing that will work. You collect your courage, and gouge out your left eye.
It doesn't hurt as badly as you'd expected. What is your sacrifice compared to the losses they've suffered, that maybe you could have prevented? Your eyeballs wriggles in the palm of your hand, and you hold it high in the air. The Perforator stops in its tracks. Each head turns slowly toward you.
When you wake up, you have a black eye on the left side. The pain in your forehead burns fiercely but it doesn't bother you anymore. Your vision is superb.
You're running. You still hold your eye in your hand, with the Perforator in persuit. You are leading it towards the last of the great eye-spires. Thankfully you've had all of today to consider your options. The greedy horror screeches, various appengadges flailing wildly. Maybe it's the smell of fresh meat, maybe you're an exotic delicacy. You almost fall when a scissor-beak smashes into the ground just inches behind you.
Despite being half blind, your better sight lets you navigate between the fleshy roots of the tower. The beast tears them away, bathing itself in blood. Just out of its reach, you dangle your eye enticingly, further enraging it. It isn't long before the tower wobbles and begins to fall..! . You just barely make it out alive as it topples over on the monster.
But the creature is too clever. At the last moment one of the heads looks up and screeches. As the tower falls, the other parts grab on and hold it aloft. It grinds and buckles under the weight, but it is only a matter of time before it will break free. Your gambit has failed.
You look closely then, around its feet- eyeballs are climbing up its treacherous body, a mission many do not survive. As you watch, they swarm to the creature's joints. Hundreds of them are suddenly upon the Perforator, the cavalry has arrived! You've bought them time for one last assault!
The beast lashes out madly, sending steel tentacles in every direction as it creaks under the sheer weight of eye-flesh. A steel tentacle is shot out at you only to be severed in midair.
Between you and the abomination, holding high a sword of shining bone, crowned with crystalline crust, stands a small but mighty orb, elderly and milky but with a fiery determination in its gaze. Eyeball King at last.
Eyeballs charge! Eyeballs fight!
Demonstrate our Eyeball Might!
Our deepest thanks, new Eyeball Knight!
Eyeballs Charge and Eyeballs FIGHT!
The King throws himself back into the fray, slicing off head after head. Quick as light he darts between the jaws and edges, and cuts the fiend deep. Yet it continues to unwind new functional parts from its mass.
It occurs to you that beyond the King's sword, you haven't seen any weapons in the realm and the eyes have appeared defensless. But en masse, the tears of the angry little eyes prove to be highly caustic! The metal components of the creature rust and crack, as the eye-tower pouring a burning waterfall down upon its body. The joints snap!
With an earth-shattering crash, the Perforator collapses. When the dust clears, it is buried beneath the rubble of the tower. The King approaches and drives his blade down into the thing's foul heart. Its final scream will echo in your ears forever.
Then the King, too, falls. You rush to him. He has taken many wounds. As he bleeds jelly, he looks up into your remaining eye.
I am King, or so you've heard.
Listen to my final words.
Care for Eyeballs great and small,
One or two-eyed, care for all...
Sight is but a precious gift
That can be taken quick and swift.
May you see more peaceful days,
May Wisdom lay behind your gaze.
Lead my Eyeballs, let them sing!
Long Live the New Eyeball King!
And so they chant, even as they dry themselves. Long Live the King! They rush to you-
and raise your little eyeball high into the air.
It quivers with excitement as the crown is placed upon it... Perhaps in time he will grow to fit it. The rest of the eyes celebrate you as well for delivering their savior. Your eyes look around, flailing its nerve endings, looking worridly to you for something. You simply nod. It never looked so happy even when it was part of you.
Much to do, much to see. Much to rebuild, and many casualties. But one day the city will stand anew.
You've never felt better. There is no more pain. When you awoke, you found your left eye was grown over completely, as if you'd been born without it. To you, it is a small sacrifice. And there are rewards- to see two worlds at once, for instance. The new ruler seems to be doing just fine. As long as he never realizes there are some fourteen billion of his people still enslaved in your world.
Long Live the King, indeed.