Insanity By D.I. Jolly
The Shadow Wars, which had irreversibly changed the world, had officially been over for twenty years. According to self-appointed Empress Rose. She and a few of her closest advisors and warlords had stormed to power in a worldwide coup when the world was at a moment of weakness and decline. For a short time, they had worked to right some wrongs, bring back in line a few aspects of civilisation that had gone astray, but then the tyranny began. She appointed herself Empress for life, build a massive tower and from its peak ruled with absolute authority and swift violent retribution against even the smallest of slight. For many the weight of oppression became the load they had to bear and so they did. Others simply broke or attempted counter-attacks but they were swiftly dealt with. As the Empresses actions became more violent and dramatic and the hatred for her grew she retreated more into her tower, issuing her order from high above but never being seen, leading to rumours of dark power and dealing with ancient evils. All of which worked to grow the people’s fear of her. And so, she grew her empire and set about devastating the world. Until the day that a self-righteous man named Jack and a few of his friends managed to infiltrate the tower. With honour in their hearts and a suicidal dedication to their mission they fought and died their way to its peak until he stood alone at the throne room door. Exhausted and terrified he tightened his grip on his sword and kicked in the door, prepared to face the demoness he’d built up in his mind, but not prepared for what he saw. The room itself was very plain, with no windows at a level a person could reach or see out of. It was gloomy but he could still make out the frame of a bed, and a desk and as his eyes settled, the scratches in the walls. He leapt into a guard position when a sound touched his ears and he was so on edge that it took him a moment to make it out as words.
“Thank God, thank God you’re here. Oh thank God you’re here.”
He scanned the room until he saw her, a thin pale shadow of a woman crouched in the corner, tears welling up in her eyes and a look of genuine relief on her face.
“Oh thank God you’re here, and it’s finally over.”
“What, what game is this, where is Empress Rose? Who are you? What’s Over?”
The woman nervously and shakily pulled herself up and in a quiet voice said.
“I am she, and my reign, my plan has finally come to its end, it’s wonderful and terrible end.”
She erupted into tears and threw herself at him, but her nature was so grateful that, instead of striking at the woman he’d sacrificed so much to face, he dropped his sword and caught her, embracing her in a hug and before he knew it they were settled on the floor, her in his arms weeping while he comforted her.
“What plan, what are you talking about?”
“We had to do it, someone had to do it, and so I took up the mantle, the burden. Do you remember what it was like before me? The truth of what it was like? The pain, the sickness, the selfishness of people, only out for their own needs and never working together for the good of all. It had to be stopped, but the only way we could think to draw everyone together, was to give them a common enemy. So I became that enemy…”
She began to cry again as Jack held her, letting her take the time she needed, feeling a horrible truth begin to grow inside of himself.
“I became the dark empress and enslaved the world, bringing my every nightmare to life, and no matter how I tried to justify it, or enjoy it, or become the person I was pretending to be, I still felt the pain of everything I was doing. So eventually I had myself locked here, my own prisoner. But then you arrived, you, the symbol I’ve been waiting for, the proof that people have learnt to come together and fight against the darkness, the personification of hope and the end of my living nightmare.”
Her eyes misted over and her lip trembled.
“And I love you for it, and it breaks my heart, over and over again to know that as your reward I have to give you my burden. You are the emperor now. It is now your mission to free the world from me, and in time if you see hope fade in the hearts of men, you will have to become me. And I am so very sorry. So devastated to see in your eyes the realisation that I had. That the only way to create hope and breed goodness in man, is with evil.”
She leaned in close and kissed him, something she hadn’t done for over twenty years, and then fell limp in his arms. Jack looked at the frail woman and hated himself. Realising that as his first action, to cement in her ultimate sacrifice he would have to condemn her, the woman who had sacrificed her own soul to save the souls of everyone.