Written by Nada Hemida
Previously: Long Live the King: Episode 7 – A Rebel Song
The next week, I paced as I watched my brother get ready to leave, hesitant to ask for the millionth time, but I finally screwed up my courage to say, “Can I go with you this time? It’s going to be safe, right? Because he’s going to listen, he’s going to hear us out. You don’t have to worry now.”
He laughed a little, for I had spoken too fast. “I don’t think this will end today. It will take us time before we finally come to an agreement. Maybe next time,” he said with a sweet smile.
My hope waned, but it did not completely falter. He looked so happy, so full of confidence that there would come a better time.
“Be careful, will you?” I said, as I did every day.
“Is there ever a time when I’m not?” He smirked, threw his arms around me for an embrace, and then left.
I turned the TV our neighborhood had collected money for, the moment my brother left as to not miss a single detail. My heart was beating in excitement just as much as it would have been if I was there with him. Old Man Hassan, who had been the one taking care of me the past few weeks, was there, too, regardless of my endless arguments with Badr that I was old enough to stay by myself.
The new and illegitimate king arrived later than arranged, but the rebels were glad enough that he showed up at all. He appeared in one of balconies in his palace, looking onto the square in front of him where thousands upon thousands of young men and women stood, all eager to know how this pans out. Seeing my brother rise to the podium, with the other representatives and be escorted into the Palace and into the meeting room was a moment of wholesome pride for me. There was my brother – the man who was only my age when he had to raise me, the man who loved me enough to fill the gap our parents left after they abandoned us, the man who always knew what was right and fought for it – standing in front of the King with his head high, the voice of a thousand others.
The King was watching them all for a while, saying nothing, and then disappeared back into the palace when he was told the meeting room was ready for him. Dozens of media outlets had rigged up cameras and livestreamed from inside, so the whole meeting was for everyone to hear.
“I’m glad you all made it here,” the King had said with a sure smile, “let us hear it, then.”
One after another, my brother and the other representatives voiced the people’s opinions – their fears, and their offers of unconditional help and support when they come to agreement, and their begging for a way to survive. That’s all they wanted, all they offered. They spoke with professional diplomacy, with elegance, with pride. They knew what they wanted and how to ask for it, but were not ready to beg for basic rights.
The King had sighed into his microphone once they were done, almost three hours later. “I’m afraid that’s a lot that you’ve asked for,” he remarked. “And I am the King and that is that, we shall have no elections whatsoever.”
“But, Your Majesty –“ a representative spoke and was caught off by a tsk-tsk from the King.
Suddenly, the representatives, including my brother, were being pushed and shoved out of the room and out of the palace and into the streets by the security guards. They thrashed with protests, and the crowd voiced their anger with such loud shouts, I thought the old TV was ruined and therefore making incomprehensible noise.
The King appeared again in that balcony, only long enough to say, “You’ve spoken for long enough, I’m afraid, I believe I’ve grown bored. Now, goodbye and good riddance,” before going back into his well-protected home.
There was only a second’s moment of confusion before everything went up in flames.
There was fire, everywhere.
I was screaming, so, so loudly. Apparently, I was moving, too, because Old Man Hassan held me back as I thrashed and screamed and sobbed.
I was still screaming, hoping against all hope that that was not my brother I had seen burn to death – when the king’s vulgar voice came back on. It was a pre-recorded message. The damned bastard had planned this all along.
“And that is what happens when you dismay your King. Now obey.”
That’s when I knew that I wanted nothing in the world more than for that cursed man to die a terrible death, and also knew that I had no power or influence to change anything.
They were all dead. Every last one of them..
My own brother, my only brother.
And with them died any trace of humanity in me – there only remained hatred and the need for all evil to die.