Chapter 38:

Fall of Empire


Jack ran after Marilyn.

He sprinted across the land bridge that snaked through the storm of dreams that was the Dungeon Universe. ‘Marilyn!’

Marilyn crashed through the medieval-looking door at the end of the land bridge. Jack followed her through.

He was met with a wasteland of red sand, brown boulders, and yellow bones.


A golden castle of alien architecture towered over the landscape. Marilyn entered the giant double doors.

Something went bang behind him.

It was the Voice of the Masquerade.

The man in the moon mask and the dark purple hooded robe had just closed the medieval-looking door on the boulder behind him. ‘GO TO HER MAJESTY, LUMBERJACK. HELP HER FULFILL THE PROPHESY. THIS DUNGEON GATE CANNOT BE KEPT OPEN FOR MUCH LONGER. IF YOU CANNOT CONSOLE HER MAJESTY SOON, I WILL RETURN TO EARTH AND COME BACK WITH A NEW DUNGEON GATE TOMMOROW.’ He produced a sheath and belt from his sleeve. ‘FOR THE DAGGER OF LIFE AND DEATH.’

Jack nodded. ‘Thanks.’ He attached the belt, sheathed the Dagger of Life and Death, and ran after Marilyn.

On his way to the castle, he spotted a band of thirty Little Green Men scavengers carrying gold scrap metal from the castle to the dunes. Though they were short of stature, their four arms were still muscular. They wore hooded desert cloaks and had what looked like raygun rifles strapped to their backs.

Jack opened the castle's giant double doors.

The entrance hall was a mausoleum of multidimensional empire: the bodies of android butlers and maids covered the floor, an squadron of alien spacecraft hung rusting from the ceiling, and a dragon skeleton on the wall crumbled from the influx of new air.

Jack followed Marilyn’s blood trail to the throne room, where he found her sitting on the throne wrapped in the torn red cloth of the Martian flag hung above her.

‘Don’t look at me!' said Marilyn. 'I’m hideous! I’ve been turned into a monster!’

He stepped closer. ‘Marilyn, I’m sure there’s some way to fix this.’

‘There isn’t! It’s a curse! The same thing happened to my father when he took the dagger from me! He stabbed himself with it during the struggle and turned into a freak! That’s why he wore a mask!’ She laughed hysterically and then started to cry. ‘I can’t live like this.... I’ve always been beautiful.... Help me, Jack.’

Jack reached where she was sitting and put his hand on her shoulder. ‘We’ll find a way to lift the curse...and if we can’t, you’ll always be beautiful to me.’

They stared at each other, one, a slasher in a lumberjack costume, the other, an alien god wrapped in the flag of a dead world. They didn’t fit in anywhere; they were made for each other.

Marilyn took Jack’s hand in hers. ‘Charmer.’

‘Come on,' said Jack. 'Let’s get back to Earth. We’ll figure things out there.’

He helped Marilyn up and supported her as they walked out of the castle. Maybe if they were quick enough, they could catch the Voice of the Masquerade before he left.

Outside, something snapped under Marilyn's foot.

It was the skull of an alien infant.

Marilyn stopped. ‘Jack?’

‘Yes, sweetheart?’ said Jack.

‘Am I evil?’


Three Little Green Men sprang up from behind a dune and shot at them with raygun rifles.

Jack activated his fiery Zone in time to deflect the energy bolts.

‘Zone Technique: Fire Whirl!’ He threw his flaming fire axe at the Little Green Men.

They got slashed and burned and fell apart screaming.

Jack laughed. ‘Little rats tried to catch us off guard! That’ll be the day, huh, Marilyn?!’

There was a hole through Marilyn’s heart.

She went limp against his body.

‘Marilyn!’ said Jack.

He laid her down on her sand and placed his hands on the wound. ‘Zone Technique: Healing Touch!’

The wound didn’t heal.

He looked to the boulder where he'd left the Voice of the Masquerade and the Dungeon Gate; they weren't there.

Marilyn coughed up blood. Her voice was weak. ‘Don’t worry about it, my lovely. You can’t heal something that was never there.’ She giggled. ‘This would be funny if it wasn’t happening to me.' Her voice suddenly became childlike. 'Hold me. I’m scared.’

Jack held her tight, continuing to use Healing Touch with his other hand.

After a while, Marilyn went still.


It was night when Jack finally gave up.

I’m worthless, he thought. Even with the Dagger of Life and Death, I couldn’t even protect the woman I loved….

There was a blood moon in the starry sky.

For a long time, he just sat there watching it.

Faint moaning came from behind the dunes. One of the Little Green Men had survived.

Jack's skin caught fire with rage.

He climbed the dune. The alien was blackened with burns, and three of its arms were missing.

‘Why?’ said Jack.

The Little Green Man’s voice was a hoarse croak. ‘That witch killed everyone on Mars.... We who took shelter in the royal castle are the only ones who survived.... There are but three-hundred Little Green Men left in the desert caves....’

Jack unsheathed the Dagger of Life and Death. ‘You should have been happy with your lot. Now you’re all going to die.’