Krauss had arrived late once again. He came into the Oval Office to find Metzger pacing the room like a caged animal. Metzger seemed quite annoyed by his protégé.
"I'm trying to teach you to be a general, a soldier, a warrior, Krauss. Yet you're always late when I want to lecture to you. Just tell me: what were you doing?"
Krauss shrugged sheepishly.
"I was reading, sir."
"A foolish preoccupation. Don't let silly things disrupt your training, Krauss. You'll be a worthy heir someday if you show up."
"I'm sorry, sir. I wasn’t paying attention to the clock. Well, you know how it is when you get engrossed in a book, sir."
"I don't read," said Metzger.
"Oh, I didn't mean like the sort of propaganda reading, or escapist things. I meant classics."
"Even the classics, as you call them, general, are nothing but propaganda. Propaganda for goodness and wellness and everything-will-turn-out-all-rightness. I don't read."
"Well, why not sir?" he said, feeling bold, then added, "If I may be so bold as to ask."
"Simple: books are unrealistic. Authors always tend to slant their writings. They make the hero invincible and the villain stupid. Consider, general, how the hero always manages to triumph. Writers always slant their stories - they pop in their own personal morals and reflections. Fables and allegories are the worst.
"Authors can make historical villains into fictional heroes. They color the truth, or make up a truth that's colored. In any given hundred page book, eighty pages will be about the hero, fifteen about the hero's relationship with the villain, and maybe five about the villain."
"Well, you can see why authors tend to make the heroes win, then. You know them more intimately than the villain. You can't feel for someone you've only spent five pages with."
"Precisely, general. But if an author were to let you spend time with the villains, truly learn about their personalities, who they are, you might almost believe for a time they would win."
"If you went to that kind of trouble," said Krauss, "You may as well let the villain win out."
"That's what I've always said. Suppose some fool author were writing about our exploits."
"Us?" asked Krauss, suddenly looking about the room.
"Yes. Supposing they wrote about us."
"Then we're in a book."
"It's possible. Now, the author would have written quite a bit about our lives. I'd be the villain..."
"Don't say that sir, you're no more villainous than anyone."
"That's the slant I'm putting on it, Krauss. Supposing that were the situation, the author might be given to allowing us to win out over the heroes. The readers would know us well, even feel for us, though they would feel animosity towards us. So, it would be possible that we could win out."
"I suppose the author would be sowing discord, to try to make his story more suspenseful, by introducing us as 'villains'. Perhaps we are just puppets to some omnipotent scribe."
"You may be a puppet, general," said Metzger, tiring of this conversation, "But I blaze the path of my own destiny. And I will always triumph."
Metzger walked over to his desk and pulled out a book.
"I do, however, read non-fiction from time to time, Krauss. I think it's important to study history and philosophy. Tell me, Krauss, have you ever considered Nostradamus?" asked Metzger.
Krauss looked about stupidly.
"Yes. Take a look at this."
Metzger indicated a passage in the book. Krauss read it. It was written in French. It read:
L'an mil neuf cens nonante neuf sept mois,
Du ciel viendra un grand Roi deffraieur.
Resusciter le grand Roi d'Angolmois.
Avant que Mars regner par bonheur.
"My French is not that good, sir."
"Roughly translated it reads," said Metzger surprisingly amiably, "'Seven months into 1999 A.D., there will come from the sky the great King of Terror. He will bring back to life, or bring new life to, the great king of the Mongols. Before and after these events, war reigns happily.'"
"Bleda Khan would be king of the Mongols."
"It's interesting isn't it? Who is the 'great King of Terror' who fell from the sky and rejuvenated Bleda Khan?"
Krauss allowed the statement to stand and kept his thoughts to himself. He considered Metzger to be rather terrifying though. And he was certainly the "king", so to speak, of the Claw. He had brought the Coalition together in Ulan Bator - perhaps, in a way, bringing new life to Bleda Khan and his cause.
"You know, I was born in July of 1999. Perhaps I am the King of Terror," said Metzger finally, "I rather like that. Lars Metzger - The King of Terror!"
Krauss smiled oddly, gave a quick salute, and left.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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