Chapter 38:

Fall of Empire


Jack ran after Marilyn.Bookmark here

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

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

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

Mars. Bookmark here

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

Something went bang behind him.Bookmark here

It was the Voice of the Masquerade. Bookmark here

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.’Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

Jack opened the castle's giant double doors. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

‘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.’Bookmark here

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.’Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

Outside, something snapped under Marilyn's foot. Bookmark here

It was the skull of an alien infant.Bookmark here

Marilyn stopped. ‘Jack?’Bookmark here

‘Yes, sweetheart?’ said Jack.Bookmark here

‘Am I evil?’Bookmark here

‘No.’Bookmark here

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

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

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

They got slashed and burned and fell apart screaming. Bookmark here

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

There was a hole through Marilyn’s heart.Bookmark here

She went limp against his body.Bookmark here

‘Marilyn!’ said Jack.Bookmark here

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

The wound didn’t heal.Bookmark here

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

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.’Bookmark here

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

After a while, Marilyn went still.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

It was night when Jack finally gave up.Bookmark here

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

There was a blood moon in the starry sky.Bookmark here

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

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

Jack's skin caught fire with rage.Bookmark here

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

‘Why?’ said Jack.Bookmark here

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....’Bookmark here

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

You can resume reading from this paragraph.