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The Four Desecrations of the Unsacred Heart

by Fox Maxwell 4 months ago in Satire
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Forehead, Tongue, Eye, Heart

“There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Then, we were saved by Noctu and King Cali.”

Several rows of good Americans rested on one knee and recited the pledge together. They used to pledge their allegiance to the flag. They also used to die from diseases and ‘old age’.

Kliff’s stomach growled. He clutched it in embarrassment.

“We are united through Pomme, but with death torn apart.

We remind ourselves daily with four desecrations of the unsacred heart.”

The patrons finished, and began the individualistic ritual.

Kliff lit his four matches, along with everyone else, and began the desecrations. He pressed the burning end of the first match against the center of his forehead until the flame burnt out - to remind him of mindfulness. The dark, calloused lump on his forehead received the flame with a sizzle.

His stomach rumbled again. A surly, gray-haired woman next to him glanced over and showed him her inner nostrils. Kliff tried to apologize by waving his hand towards his rumbling tum.

Kliff pressed the second match against the front-most center of his tongue, furthering its division into a snakelike split. This to remind him to be careful with his words.

As is next in the four desecrations, he put the third match against the inside corner of his left eye. This is the exact spot through which the life-giving PommeChip was inserted into his brain when he turned twelve years old.

The invention of the PommeChip marked the first step towards multi-decade-long (and counting) world peace. It’s a small microchip designed to stimulate and de-stimulate the hypothalamus to prevent aging by regulating the output of mTORC15x - a previously undetectable protein that teaches the body how to grow, age, and die. This protein was first pointed out to FacePomme founder Calvin Forman by the first dragon to come to earth, Noctu the great.

Calvin Forman, or King California as he demanded to be referred to, dreamed of implementing virtual reality spaces into his fiercely popular social messaging app, FacePomme. In one of his experiments, he accidentally opened a portal to another dimension in his Silicon Valley living room. Noctu the Great walked right in, took a look around the place for a few days, and found an opportunity. The first dragon in the Silicon Valley (and the planet) pointed out the protein to King California, and changed the world forever by giving him the idea to offer humans everlasting life - for a fee.

The PommeChip is inserted through the left cornea, and will remain in a person’s hypothalamus for eternity unless something unfortunate happens like being shot by a Pomme Law Enforcement Officer, or drinking a poisoned cocktail, or being tossed into the Lake of Fire.

Kliff’s stomach roared again. The gray-haired woman shushed him and spit at him and called him names under her breath - nothing Kliff hadn’t heard before. Something about this woman - maybe the way she shushed him, or the growth protruding from her chin, or the way her foul breath carried four feet over into Kliff’s nose - something about her reminded Kliff of his Aunt Virginia. Aunt Virginia was his father’s half sister. She was very religious. Always reciting scripture towards people. Always praying before meals. Always shushing people. Kliff hadn’t seen or heard from Aunt Virginia in years. He hoped she had been - as they say - raptured.

Kliff flipped off the Aunt Virginia lookalike before carrying out the fourth and final desecration.

He rested the last lit match against the hole in the upper center of his wetsuit where all PommeChip subscribers have a dark, calloused lump over their heart. He collected his four burnt matches and stood up to his feet.

The PommeHall wasn’t particularly elegant. It used to be a department store. The department stores all went out of business when people started to buy their clothes from drones. The walls were decorated with Pomme advertisements, posters of King California, QR codes, and signs with the Pomme pledge written out.

Kliff got in line to dispose of his matches and pay his daily PommeChip subscription fee. He tried to meet new people at the Hall whenever he could. He never had any dinner plans or parties to attend or even anyone to message on FacePomme. His only real friend was his mother, and she didn’t think very highly of him.

“So, do you think the potluck will start on time this week?” He asked the gentleman standing behind him in line.

This man - tall, goatee, a bald head you could bounce a dime off of - was a Pomme Law Enforcement Officer. His red wetsuit was marked with yellow exclamation marks on the shoulders and the FacePomme logo on the front left chest - a white circle with a thin, gold arrow slicing through it pointed upward. The front right chest read PLEO in posh, gold cursive script.

“Don’t talk at me,” The man said.

Kliff sighed and turned around. His stomach made a bird-like squawk. Fake Aunt Virginia wasn’t nearby anymore to say anything, but he flipped her off again anyways.

The four dragon statues at the front of every PommeHall were life-size and colorful. Kliff hadn’t ever seen the statues in a different PommeHall, but he heard they’re all the same.

Noctu the Great was the largest, oldest of the four dragons and fancied himself the leader. He once displayed his intellectual superiority and magnificence by training two giraffes to walk side-by-side through Las Vegas while he stood with one foot on each of their heads. Noctu the Great’s reptilian feet were just a bit larger than the surface area of a giraffe's head, making this display even more marvelous since the giraffes could not see where they were going. He stood with his long feathered body perfectly upright with his slender reptilian arms folded on his chest, sailboat-sized feathered wings spread wide, and his oven-sized owl-shaped head cocked back slightly in a show of arrogance. This is how the Noctu the Great statues were displayed in PommeHalls. The other three dragon statues were not quite so elaborate.

Kliff’s stomach made an exceptionally loud gurgle. His eyes widened. He double-clutched his whiney stomach and scanned the room for offended patrons of the PommeHall.

The PLEO behind him stepped out of line with his hands in the air.

Kliff was worried. He knew PLEOs were obligated to harm people that annoyed them, and he had already bothered this man once.

The PLEO took a deep breath.

Kliff closed his eyes and braced himself.

The PLEO screamed “John three sixteen! God loved the world and gave us his only son! We worship a false god!”

Kliff opened one eye in shock and confusion. He bit his upper lip.

The PLEO continued “Whoever believes in him will have true eternal life! Calvin Forman is the devil! Repent and.” That’s when he was shot in the thigh and tackled by a dozen or so other PLEOs. The lined up PommeChip patrons cheered. Kliff’s stomach cheered too.

The god-touting PLEO was dragged out of the Hall through a door marked AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. Kliff figured he’d be interrogated and executed, but he had never seen a rebellious display quite like that before. Not from a PLEO.

Kliff placed one burnt match in each of the four bowls in front of the dragon statues, paid his ten dollar subscription fee at the window, and left the Hall to finish his day.

He stepped out into the rain to find a cafe.

It always rained in Lost Angeles. Ever since the fourth dragon arrived. In fact, it rained every day for most of the day everywhere in the country. The interdimensional portal either let some really bad weather in, or the dragons controlled the weather. No one really knew. The only place it didn’t rain was Las Vegas - where each PommeChip subscriber was required to travel and spend a minimum of 500 dollars at one of King California’s many casinos.

Kliff’s stomach whined again. “Stop it! I know!” Kliff pleaded. Kliff’s typical stop - CrunchLuck - came into view. He jogged a few steps before reaching the doorway. CLOSED INDEFINITELY - the sign on the door said. Kliff stood at the door for a moment, baffled. He collected his phone from his pocket and opened FacePomme to find answers. He didn’t need to scroll for long to find a post from CrunchLuck at 4:06 PM: CrunchLuck will be closed today and for the near future due to short staffing. Our head chef was suffocated to death this afternoon by a PLEO who didn’t like his singing in the park.

Kliff stood motionless. Not out of dispar, but because he was thinking of a new, quick dinner idea. There was nothing to mourn - this type of thing happened often.

The closest source of food Kliff could think of was a Witchery two streets over. He hadn’t been there before, but he knew his mother enjoyed it. Maybe they had some nice vegan jerky or cauliflower crisps, Kliff thought to himself.

His stomach begged him again for nourishment. He begged again for his stomach to shut up.

A twinkling bell rang when he opened the door to the Witchery. The store smelled like incense and sour marijuana. It dampened Kliff’s appetite a bit.

“Welcome to the Vibarium Witchery,'' a stoic voice said from behind the counter.

Kliff looked up and waved. The attendant standing at the register had sky-blue hair, crow-black lipstick, and the word “breathe” tattooed on her neck. Kliff immediately concluded that this was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“Hello,” Kliff said.

“How can I help you?” She asked.

Kliff thought through some friendly things he had said to women before that had worked out well for him.

“Hello,” he said again. “Gurgle gurgle,” his stomach said.

The beautiful witch laughed.

“Okay so I guess you’re hungry,” she said. “Let me know if any of this catches your attention.” She motioned towards the display case.

“Are you hungry for anything in particular?”

Kliff wanted to say something that would impress her. Something smart. Something funny.

“Hello,” he said for a third time.

The stunning attendant laughed again.

“L-O-L, man,” she said. “Whatever you’re on… you’ll have to give me your dealer’s info. You’re funny. Let me know if-slash-when you’ve come up with some other words.”

Kliff shook his head and came up with some other words.

“Hello, Sorry,” he said. “I’m Kliff. How are you doing?”

“Hello Kliff,” she laughed again. “I’m Dee. Doing great. I recommend the mushroom curds.” She pointed back to the display case.

“Yes okay. I’d like two dozen mushroom curds, one order of vegan beef tartare, and the large kale salsa,” Kliff said, confidently.

“Excellent,” Dee smiled. She began wrapping up Kliff’s order. “That’s a good amount of food. You going to a party?”

“Yes,” Kliff said. He didn’t know why he said that. The food was for him and his mother.

“What time?” Dee asked. “I’m off at eight.”

Kliff froze. He was performing some math in his head - revisiting the conversation so far. He formed the mouth shape that would create a ‘W’ sound, but didn’t get far enough in the word-forming process to actually create a sound before freezing again.

“If the party is half as fun as you are,” Dee smiled. “I want to be there.”

Kliff’s stomach rumbled again, then Kliff threw up.

“There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Then, we were saved by Noctu and King Cali.”

Dee’s recitation was more of a mumble. She frequently told her grandma that she was too old for this. Her grandma assured her she’d be captured by the PLEOs if she didn’t make the pledge every day and pay her subscription. Dee knelt behind her Grandma so that she wasn’t seen mumbling.

“We are united through Pomme, but with death torn apart.

We remind ourselves daily with four desecrations of the unsacred heart.”

Dee took her Grandma to the PommeHall every afternoon in between her two jobs - barista by day, witchery attendant by night. It was her Grandma’s witchery. Dee worked the evenings so her Grandma could watch the news to see who the PLEOs had killed or beaten or tossed into the lake of fire. Dee loved her Grandma. Her Grandma loved the news.

“Chill out, Gran.” Dee saw her Grandma spitting at some poor guy next to her. Her Grandma made a habit out of yelling or spitting or cussing at strangers.

Dee rushed through her desecrations - head, tongue, eye, heart. She waited for her Grandma to finish and walked her to the subscription line.

Most people took a moment to appreciate each dragon as they dropped their matches into the bowls. Dee did not. She frequently told her Grandma it was stupid to wrship them since the dragons really took away most of their quality of life in exchange for its longevity. Her Grandma told her never to say such things in public.

Dee was fond of Madame Morsa, though. The fourth and last dragon that came through the portal. The only female dragon. The trainer, coordinator, and chief executive of the PLEOs. An icon of feminine strength.

Dee had a stuffed animal in her bedroom that was a miniature version of Madame Morsa’s statue: The body of an eagle with the legs and arms of a scaly monkey and a head sort of like a blocky crocodile. She got it for her birthday when she was fourteen. Most girls did. Most girls appreciated their highly priced Madame Morsa merchandise. Dee didn’t. Dee knew her stuffed animal was acquired for free because her mother worked for Madame Morsa. Dee hadn’t spoken to her mother since she turned nineteen. Dee hadn’t ever even taken the Madame Morsa stuffed animal out of the box. Still, she felt empowered by Madame Morsa.

Dee walked her Grandma through the line, paid both of their subscriptions fees, walked out of the PommeHall into the hot Lost Angeles rain, and paused at the sound of yelling and gunfire behind them.

“I hope it was that goofball with the stomach problems,” Gran said.

“Relax, Gran.” Dee replied, reaching for her phone. “Let me check FacePomme.”

“No!” Gran yelled. “Let’s get home to see if it’s on the news already!”

Gran grabbed Dee by the hand and shuffled her old feet down the PommeHall stair steps.

Gran and Dee lived in an apartment above the Vibarium Witchery with Weston - Gran’s son and Dee’s father. Gran was proud of Weston for being a PLEO. Dee was embarrassed to live with a PLEO, but he made her laugh and was a wonderful cook. Dee’s brother used to live there too, but he got married and moved to Nevada. Dee’s mother used to live there, but she got a sweet job offer and disappeared.

Dee unlocked the store and Gran skipped upstairs. Gran spent her mornings cleaning and preparing and baking items to sell in the store. She spent her evenings watching the news and drinking fruit-flavored liquor and swearing at the neighbor’s dogs.

Dee spent most of her time in the shop scrolling through FacePomme. She read that a PLEO started yelling about jesus at the PommeHall and was shot in the leg and detained. She thought she’d ask her dad later if he knew the guy. She also saw a personality quiz that would tell you which of the four dragons you are. Her result said Noctu the Great, so she refreshed the page to take it again. She wanted it to say Madame Morsa.

The door jingled, alerting Dee that a customer walked in. She answered YES to question number six: WOULD YOU LIVE ALONE IN ALASKA FOR A YEAR FOR ONE MILLION DOLLARS? then set her phone down.

“Welcome to the Vibarium Witchery,” Dee said.

A man waved at her from the doorway. He had coconut-brown hair, tree-green eyes, and a Noctu medallion hanging from a silver chain necklace. It was the most ordinary looking man she had ever seen.

“Hello,” the man said.

“How can I help you?” Dee asked.

The man stood in the doorway, still waving.

“Hello,” he said again. His stomach rumbled.

Dee laughed.

“Okay so I guess you’re hungry,” she said. “Let me know if any of this catches your attention.” Dee tapped on the display case with the food.

“Are you hungry for anything in particular?”

The man looked down at the food and took a few steps forward.

“Hello,” he said for a third time.

Dee laughed again. She figured he must be high.

“L-O-L, man,” she said. “Whatever you’re on… you’ll have to give me your dealer’s info. You’re funny. Let me know if-slash-when you’ve come up with some other words.”

The man shook his head and did in fact come up with some other words.

“Hello, Sorry,” he said. “I’m Kliff. How are you doing?”

“Hello Kliff,” she laughed again. “I’m Dee. Doing great. I recommend the mushroom curds.” She pointed back to the display case.

“Yes okay. I’d like two dozen mushroom curds, one order of vegan beef tartare, and the large kale salsa,” Kliff said, meagerly.

“Excellent,” Dee smiled. She began wrapping up Kliff’s order. “That’s a good amount of food. You going to a party?”

“Yes,” Kliff said while scratching his nose.

“What time?” Dee asked. “I’m off at eight.” Dee frequently looked for opportunities to get out of the house. Her Grandma frequently told her she needed to respect the PLEOs and look out for weirdos.

Kliff froze. It appeared to Dee like he was having a hard time speaking.

“If the party is half as fun as you are,” Dee smiled. “I want to be there.”

Kliff’s stomach rumbled again, then Kliff threw up.

“Oh my god!” Dee yelled. “Are you okay?”

Kliff threw some cash at Dee, grabbed the food, then ran out the door. Dee saw him almost get hit by a garbage truck. Someone from the truck threw a banana peel at him, then he ran off.

“Gran!” Dee yelled up the stairs. “Someone just threw up in the shop!”

“Threw up?” Gran yelled back.

“Yes!” Dee replied.

“Gross!”

“What do I do?”

“Clean it up!”

“How?”

“What do you mean ‘how’?”

“I’ve never had to do that before!”

“Figure it out. I’m watching the news!” Gran ended the conversation.

Dee doused the vomit puddle with soap, got a mop wet, then swabbed the vomit in circles. She scooped the soapy vomit up with a towel and threw the towel in the trash. A FacePomme notification chimed on her phone. She picked it up off the display case.

PUBLIC DESECRATION AND EXECUTION AT THE LAKE OF FIRE. FRIDAY AT 7 PM. CLICK HERE FOR TIPS ON GETTING A GOOD SEAT HOW TO DRESS TO IMPRESS.

“There wer’n alway’ dragons in the vall- valley. Then, we were save’ by Noctu and - and Cali.”

Rupert burped. He was drunk. This happened from time to time. For example, this happened at 11:05 AM on a Monday, and it happened at 10:05 AM on a Tuesday. And it happened every other morning of the week. And it continued to happen into each evening. Rupert felt it was his obligation to live life this way since he was a garbage man. A man of the garbage. A true garbage connoisseur. He would often say to strangers: A garbagemon, if you will.

“We unite’ through Pomme, but with deaf-” Rupert burped again.

We remind ourself daily with four decimation’ of the un-say heart.”

Rupert needed to get through this one quickly. He felt the days worth of liquor and beer and other such liquids building up in his lower stomach. Knocking on the bladder’s door. Chipping away at the dam.

“Okay,” he muttered to himself. “One for the head.”

Rupert lit a match and put it near his forehead.

“Alrighty then, chap,” Rupert whispered in a British accent. He was born in Portland. “One for the ol’ eye socket then, bruv.”

Rupert lit a second match and pressed it against his eyebrow - so close.

“And another for me mouth then.” He lit his third match and swallowed it.

“And the final one for me breast.” He dropped the fourth lit match down the neckline of his wetsuit.

Rupert hopped up and got in line behind four or five others that were in even more of a hurry than him. He wobbled back and forth. The dam in his lower body was putting up all the fight it had.

Third in line. Rupert hadn’t ever peed himself in his adulthood, but he began to consider it.

“So these people might laugh at me,” he mumbled out loud. “But they’ll never see me again, probably. It’s a big city”

Second in line.

He bounced up and down.

“No. No. No. I can do this.” He put his hands on his head.

Next in line.

He threw his four matches at the bowls, swiftly swiped his card at the window, and jolted out into the rain.

“Garbage truck,” he said to no one.

“Where did I park the truck?” He asked whoever was listening - it was no one.

“It shouldn’t be hard to find a garbage truck!” He yelled. Then, he saw it. The large, all-black, government-issued, City of Lost Angleles garbage truck. Parked on the street. Right where he left it.

Rupert galloped behind the truck, unzipped his wetsuit, and added some gold color to the sweet, Lost Angeles rain.

After freeing himself from bladder-captivity, Rupert hopped in the truck and continued his route. The city grants each ‘garbagemon’ a thirty minute afternoon break to pledge their desecrations. Rupert picked up the last bottle of a twelve pack.

Slurp.

Burp.

Rupert didn’t worry about doing his job drunk. The job did itself. The autonomous garbage truck just needed a human to press the DUMP button every time a dumpster was hoisted in the air.

At the end of the twelve pack of dark colored beer, Rupert found himself in need of a snack. He looked around the floor board. Empty CrunchLuck bag. Apple core. Moldy bread. Banana.

Rupert stopped rummaging and picked up the banana.

Beep.

Arthur pressed the DUMP button then peeled his banana. The truck moved on. Arthur ate the banana.

At the exact moment he finished the banana, the truck jerked to a halt. Rupert looked up and saw a doe-eyed, brown-haired goofball covered in vomit standing in the street.

Rupert threw his banana peel at him through the window - hit him square in the ear. Rupert smiled at himself.

“I’ve still got it,” he said out loud, then burped.

Ding dong.

FacePomme chimed on Rupert’s phone. He found it under an empty bottle of vodka and read the notification.

PUBLIC DESECRATION AND EXECUTION AT THE LAKE OF FIRE. FRIDAY AT 7 PM. CLICK HERE FOR TIPS ON GETTING A GOOD SEAT HOW TO DRESS TO IMPRESS.

“Oh, yes!” Rupert yelled. “I wonder if the boys have seen this.”

He opened up his FacePomme group chat with the boys and typed away.

Rupert and the boys camped out in the front row the night before the execution. He got there twenty-five minutes after his shift ended. Then he and the boy drank hard seltzers all day.

“Greetings, my good Pomme people!” a voice said from the stack of amplifiers on the stage next to Rupert. “We have quite the ceremony for you in store tonight!”

Rupert and the boys didn’t hear one single other word that was said. They screamed, chugged, and slapped each other for the next fifteen minutes.

The crowd around them knelt on one knee, so Rupert and the boys did the same.

“There weren’t always dragons in the valley,” The crowd said. “Then, we were saved by Noctu and King Cali.”

Rupert felt that sensation again. That itch. That pressure. That buildup of alcoholic liquids in his bowels. There wasn’t a nearby restroom that he knew of.

“We are united through Pomme,” the crowd continued. “But with death torn apart. We remind ourselves daily with four desecrations of the unsacred heart.”

Rupert weighed his options. “Now might be the time,” he said out loud. “To break the seal and pee your pants. The whole city is here partying. Plenty of people are peeing themselves.”

Billy the dragon lifted a PLEO in the air. The crowd went crazy.

“Okay,” Rupert mumbled. “Now’s the time. You can do this.”

“Ten! Nine! Eight!” The crowd began counting down. Probably for him - he thought.

“Seven! Six!”

“Here we go,” Rupert said. “I’m going to ruin these pants.

“Five! Four!” Rupert stretched his neck and squatted.

The crowd cheered. For some dreadful reason, they didn’t continue the count down. Rupert screamed. He looked around for some better options. All he saw was people. So many people. He couldn’t remember what they were even gathered for.

“Ten! Nine! Eight!” They counted down again.

“Seven! Six!”

Rupert slapped himself in the face.

“Five! Four!”

Rupert jumped onto the hood of a car and threw an empty beer bottle as hard as he could into the Lake of Fire.

“Three!”

He unzipped his pants.

“Two!”

Rupert screamed.

“One!”

Rupert relaxed his lower abdominal muscles and relieved himself into the crowd.

“There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Then, we were saved by Noctu and King Cali.”

Arthur recited the pledge like he did every day. Only, he wasn’t talking. He moved his mouth without making words. He made it appear like he was pledging. Similarly, the makeup on his forehead and chest made it appear like he had scars from the desecrations.

“We are united through Pomme, but with death torn apart.

We remind ourselves daily with four desecrations of the unsacred heart.”

Arthur continued his charade. He put an unlit match against the makeup spot on his forehead and against the prosthetic on his tongue that made it appear split and against the contact lens that made his left eye appear damaged and against the makeup on his chest in the hole in the middle of his PLEO uniform. He stood and waited for all of the other PommeHall patrons to gather in line before joining.

Arthur inhaled deeply. He closed his eyes and pictured his late mother.

Arthur exhaled. He pictured his late father.

Arthur inhaled again. Deeper. Slower. He pictured his murdered sister.

Arthur exhaled.

“So, do you think the potluck will start on time this week?” A loud-spoken patron asked him.

Arthur opened his eyes to see a curly-haired, dough-faced, green-eyed Noctu fanboy.

“Don’t talk at me,” Arthur said. The fanboy turned around. The fanboy’s stomach made a weird sound, and he stuck his middle finger out at no one in particular.

Arthur thumbed at the silver cross in his pocket. He pressed his thumb against the top point.

“For mom,” he whispered to himself. He pressed the right side of the cross.

“For dad,” he whispered. He pressed the left side.

“For Samantha,” he continued. It was nearly silent in the PommeHall. He pressed the bottom tip.

“For hope.” It was silent except for the fanboy’s stomach continuing to make odd noises. Arthur raised his arms towards heaven and stepped out of line.

Arthur inhaled.

“John three sixteen!” He yelled. “God loved the world and gave us his only son! We worship a false god!”

The PommeHall PLEOs ran towards him. He knew this would happen.

Arthur continued “Whoever believes in him will have true eternal life!” The PLEOs strapped on their iron knuckles. He was prepared for this.

“Calvin Forman is the devil! Repent and.”

Bang.

Arthur was shot in the leg. He was not prepared for that. He screamed in pain and fell to the floor. The PLEOs punched and kicked him a dozen or maybe one hundred or maybe one thousand times. Arthur was only half-conscious. The PommeHall patrons cheered as he was dragged out of the room.

Arthur woke up tied to a chair with what he imagined was a one million pound weight on top of his head. Only, it was just a headache.

“Moo moo flu clerk switch?” a voice asked him.

Arthur felt the room rotating around him. It was damp and tasted like blood. He could see two or maybe four or eight PLEOs across from him. They wouldn’t stop moving.

“Do you do dirt tricks?” the voice asked him again.

The room slowed down a bit. Arthur could tell that there were definitely only four or two PLEOs in the room with him. One of them splashed him with cold water. Arthur squealed.

“Who do you work with?” the voice yelled again.

“Jesus Christ,” Arthur tried to say. What he actually said was “eeeeeeuuuhhh.”

“This is pointless,” the voice said to one of the other PLEOs in the spinning room. “His jaw is broken. Someone call Madame Morsa’s office.”

Two PLEOs reared back their left fist at the same time, then came into focus. Arthur finally determined it to be just one PLEO in the room with him.

Pop.

He punched Arthur in the cheekbone and knocked him out again.

Arthur woke up bound to a new chair but not in a small room. The world around him became clear much quicker than before. He had been injected with adrenaline.

Arthur was on an outdoor stage in front of an impressive crowd. He could feel the heat off the Lake of Fire behind him. On stage with him he saw at least three dozen PLEOs, several massive television screens, and, for the first time in his life, he saw two of the dragons in-person: The inseparable two. The warmongers. The dog and the brain. Billy the Brute and Charlie the Rat.

Billy towered over him. Eight feet tall with a head like a pitbull. The possum-sized Charlie sat on Billy’s left shoulder - just like the PommeHall statues.

The giant TVs flickered on to show a pale man with a bun tied up on his head wearing thin glasses, patterned black slacks, and a tight-fitted gray t-shirt with a C embroidered in gold. King California.

The crowd erupted in cheers.

“Greetings, my good Pomme people!” he said. “We have quite the ceremony for you in store tonight!”

The crowd noise died down. The people were eager to hear from their self-proclaimed king. Arthur had to turn his head quite a bit to see the screen. It was painful.

“People of Sank Fransisco,” King Cali continued. “Say hey to our beautiful queen, Madame Morsa. People of Las Vegas, let Noctu the Great hear you! Good people right there in Lost Angeles, scream loud for Billy and Charlie!”

Arthur felt what he perceived as a massive earthquake strike at that moment. Only, it was just the adoring crowd giving their loudest cheer for everyone’s two favorite dragons.

Arthur noticed that it wasn’t raining.

“On stage in L-A. We have a traitor,” King Cali went on. “A judgemental renegade. A pompous zealot! Yesterday afternoon, this former Pomme Law Enforcement Officer spoke blasphemy at a PommeHall!”

The crowd gasped and booed and threw trash on stage.

“So this is what we’re going to do,” the King said. “We’re going to pledge the desecrations together, then we’re going to cut the zealot's tongue out and throw him in the Lake of Fire!”

Another crowd-earthquake struck.

Arthur screamed “You can’t do this!” Only, his jaw was still broken, so he actually screamed “oooooeeeuuuuu!”

“Let us begin,” King Cali said. “Everyone, take a knee.”

“There weren’t always dragons in the valley.” The crowd began. “Then, we were saved by Noctu and King Cali.”

Arthur looked around for a way out, but he knew this was it.

“We are united through Pomme, but with death torn apart.”

Charlie the Rat flew down and landed on Arthur’s lap. He lit four matches.

“We remind ourselves daily with four desecrations of the unsacred heart.”

A swoosh filled the air of millions of matches being ignited all at once.

Charlie shoved the first match into Arthur’s forehead with enough force that it burnt out and stayed there. Arthur cried.

Charlie shoved the second match right into Arthur’s left eye. Arthur screamed.

Charlie reached into Arthur’s mouth, pulled out his tongue, and pierced it with the third match. Arthur whaled.

Charlie thrust the final match into Arthur’s sternum. Arthur wanted to pass out. Only, the adrenaline kept him awake and absorbing the pain.

Billy the Brute grabbed Arthur by the shoulders, ripped him from the chair and lifted him up thirty feet in the air.

Charlie followed with a pair of scissors.

Snip. Snip.

He demonstrated to the crowd.

Charlie slowly reached the scissors into Arthur’s mouth, then yanked them out, teasing the crowd. He winked. The crowd laughed. Arthur sobbed.

Snip. Snip.

He reached in. Reached out. Reached in - raised his eyebrows at the crowd - reached out.

“Just do it, fool.” Billy spoke in a voice three octaves lower than any voice Arthur had heard before.

“Come on!” King Cali yelled from the comfort of wherever he was. “Ten! Nine! Eight!” He started a countdown. The crowd joined in. Arthur wept.

“Seven! Six!”

Arthur braced himself.

“Five! Four!”

Arthur inhaled.

“One!” Billy yelled. He reached into Arthur’s mouth, grasped his tongue, and pulled it out of his oral cavity. The crowd screamed. King Cali clapped. Arthur shrieked in horror.

Charlie slumped his shoulders in disappointment as Billy flew Arthur to a C-shaped post over the Lake of Fire. Charlie caught up and helped tie Arthur in to the C-shape. There were several letter-shaped posts. Arthur couldn’t tell, but he was the ‘C’ in K-i-n-g C-a-l-i-f-o-r-n-i-a.

King Cali spoke up again. “Soon, Billy will open his mouth and breathe fire onto this blasphemer. He will be displayed here as a reminder that I, alone, offer neverending life. PommeChip can save you! John three sixteen cannot!”

Charlie placed Arthur’s silver cross in his mouth where his tongue used to be, then he laughed and flew off.

“Ten! Nine! Eight!” King Cali began again.

Arthur felt the cross against the roof of his mouth.

“Seven! Six!” The crowd roared.

Arthur held the cross tightly in his teeth.

“Five!”

Arthur inhaled.

“Four!”

He exhaled.

A glass bottle flew from the crowd and shattered on his right hand, leaving a glass shard planted in his wrist.

“Three!”

Arthur extended his fingers and grabbed the glass. It had already cut through the plastic cord tying his hand to the C.

“Two!”

Arthur reached down and cut the cord around his feet.

“One!”

At the exact moment that Billy launched a momentous belch of fire onto the large letter C, Arthur cut the cord around his waist and fell into the Lake of Fire.

Having not seen Arthur fall, King Cali cheered. The crowd hollered. Arthur screamed in agony and wanted to pass out. Only, he couldn’t pass out due to the adrenaline.

Arthur, burning alive and bellowing, sprinted in no direction in particular. Still biting onto his silver cross, without a plan, Arthur raced through the Lake of Fire. By some scientific anomaly, Arthur ran for six seconds, found a patch of non-burning sand, and laid down. He wanted to die. Only, he didn’t.

Satire

About the author

Fox Maxwell

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