The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes

by Tony Noland

The day was warm and flawless, with scintillating sunshine streaming from a broad, blue sky. The Emperor's Own Brigade led the parade, the fearsome phalanx known to friend and foe as the Red Dragons. Proud and polished, they filed past in row upon row of majestic military might. They were followed in order by the Imperial Fife and Drum Corps, the Council of Governors and the High Priests of the Great Temple, with all their assorted acolytes and virgins.

In a flourish of gold brocade and purple silk, long bell-horn held high, the Herald of the Emperor paced in measured step, sounding the rhythmic, compelling notes of the Imperial March.

And then came His Imperial Majesty, head high and chest out-thrust, brown hair turned to loosely matted gray on his chest and legs, his pocked pale flesh rippling upwards with every step on the closely set cobblestones. The sunlight gleamed on his crown of gold, on his sapphire-encrusted scepter of office, and on his glistening, sweaty skin.

Whereas the citizens of the capitol had cheered the Emperor's Own, tossed goodnatured comments to the Council and begged blessings from the High Priests, every head bowed with silent reverence as the Emperor passed. With regal calm, he nodded to left and right, acknowledging the obeisance of his people.

It was in this silence that a child could be heard, laughing high and loud.

"He's naked, mama! Look! You can see his dangle!"

The Emperor, perhaps not hearing, perhaps choosing not to notice, continued his stately progression.

Though the child's mother tried to shush him, the little boy again shouted with glee. "But he IS! He's naked as a piggy! Just look at him, mama! He's so fat and funny looking!"

The Emperor stopped. Behind him, the rest of the parade ground to an instant, clashing halt. Ahead of him, the Herald of the Emperor, who kept a close eye on his master so as to be guided by him, also stopped. The musician broke off mid-phrase and tucked his bell-horn under his arm. When the Imperial March fell silent, the head of the parade stopped and turned. The High Priests, the Council, the Fife and Drums Corps and the Red Dragons all stopped and turned to face their absolute ruler. They all stood in silence as the Emperor stared at the little boy.

Squirming in his mother's frantic grasp, the boy shouted, "But can't you see he's naked? There's his bum and his dangle and his big belly. How come I can't go naked, mama?"

With a speed and power born of wartime victories too many to count, the Emperor stepped in close to the boy and yanked him from his mother's grasp. His huge, meaty hand gripped the boy's throat and he swung the child high into the air. The boy had time for a single cry of pain and terror, whined from his crushed windpipe, before the Emperor slammed his little body down onto the stones. Even his mother's scream could not drown out the drywood CRACK of his small back snapping when he hit.

In a single, smooth motion, the Emperor lifted his scepter and swung it down with brutal, battlefield force onto the boy's skull. The child's gurgling stopped, his little body twitching with animal motions, gushing and bleeding on the cobblestones. The only sound was the mother's wailing screams and the hissed voices of those restraining her, muffling her, keeping her back from her child.

The Emperor pulled the scepter free from the wreckage of the child's skull and turned to face the mother. He shoved the bloody instrument of death under her chin, grinding the symbol of his reign into her throat until she choked for breath through her frantic, hysterical tears. Terror spread through the crowd as they waited to learn the extent of the retribution the Emperor would extract for the child's insults.

Finally, after long minutes in the clear, perfect sunshine, the monarch released the woman. She sagged backward. He turned to her neighbors in the crowd, "As it is Our birthday, We choose to show mercy. Take her home."

Everyone who heard the Emperor's words hastened to obey, bowing and scraping, dragging the woman bodily away. The Emperor stood and watched as half the street emptied. Then, head held high, he stepped over the body of the child and stood in the middle of the boulevard, resuming his place in the parade.

He nodded to the Herald, who licked his lips and resumed the Imperial March, the clear, strident notes sounding through the air once again. The parade slowly wound its way through the capitol, and in turn, every head, young and old, trembled and bowed low to His Imperial Majesty.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

26 comments:

  1. OH my. At first I giggled at this - "He's naked, mama! Look! You can see his dangle!" - prepared to use it in the comment about how I laughed... but GEEZ, the description of the boy being brutally murdered by that fat, lumpy, dangling, nekkid horror, OMG, that was just nasty, but like AWESOME nasty. And this? "He shoved the bloody instrument of death under her chin, grinding the symbol of his reign into her throat until she choked for breath through her frantic, hysterical tears." Brilliant. I really felt her pain, the "frantic hysterical tears" making me feel my own hysteria at the thought of losing a child in such a horrible, horrible way. Well done, Tony.

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    1. Thanks, Cathy. Not quite the humorous twist I've been giving stories recently, I know. Still, I'm glad the transition shock was potent for you.

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  2. Now here is some vintage Tony Noland!

    And you know it probably went down exactly like that…

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  3. Oh that was nasty - well done! ^__^

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  4. Yeah, that's pretty much what you can expect if you disagree with people in power...

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  5. Who said he was naked..?? Not me.. What a magnificent costume you are wearing, your majesty.. Brutal twist!

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  6. Now, that's more like it! DEATH! Tony, I was beginning to think you lost your touch. :P

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  7. By the way.. your link on the collector reads "Sorry, the page that you are looking for does not exist." Prompt for next week?

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    1. The link is fixed, but feel free to use the error as a prompt anyway. ;-)

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  8. So much for the child's voice of reason. Nice sharp writing here, Tony. And what a shocker.

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  9. I think we should replace the original tale with Tony's.
    Far more realistic, and better advice for young ones: when the big cheese says something is true, you agree with them

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  10. Traditional tales are meant to be gruesome, aren't they? Good one!

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  11. I like your use of the word dangle!

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  12. I sometimes get so used to a comic twist at the end of a horror story that I forget how fun the flip-side could be. Wonderfully gruesome and gruesomely wonderful.

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  13. I must admit, I'm a bit troubled by how many of you are so happy to see me turn bloody and vicious again. You're animals!

    p.s. Dangle. Next time you see one, think of that word. Dangle. Even better, the next time you see the word "dangle", think of this story.

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  14. Heh. "Bell-horn."

    Wait. What?

    I was wondering where you were taking it, thought for a moment (more fool me) that it might be a simple, light-hearted retelling, but whammo! I mean, was I wrong. As wrong as a rhetorical sceptre dripping kiddy gore.

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  15. Everyone deserves a go at this old tale. Always figured the kid would get boiled, myself.

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  16. You gotta give them an example, something they won't soon forget. Think this works!

    "His huge, meaty..." I wondered where you were going with this line...

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  17. Loved it. Did not see that violent death coming, but it was good.

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  18. Thanks, guys. I've had some strong reaction to this.

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  19. I do believe this story is more fitting to be the true one. That's what I love about it. Or maybe I'm just a fan of horror and blood in tales of such. A funny beginning and then BAM! The Emperor does not take mockery. Nice Tony.

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  20. First funny, then terrifying. Wickedly crafted and brutal to read…I loved it.

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  21. Eek! Did not expect THAT at all!

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  22. Eek! Did not expect THAT at all!

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  23. Eek! Did not expect THAT at all!

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  24. I expected the child to be overridden by the voices of his elders, who knew better -- but whoa! I didn't expect THAT. Powerful cautionary tale.

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