Midnight Parade
rating: +27+x

At midnight, two men met under the dim light of a back alley, away from the crowd and their watchful eyes. Dark stars shone weakly in the sky.

One of the men was dressed in fine clothes, and yet he covered all of the jewels he wore with a thick black cloak. The other one also wore a black cloak, and appeared nervous. He occasionally glanced at the main road, making sure that no one paid them any attention.

One of them, with luxurious ornaments here and there, spoke with a deep voice. It echoed in the dark alley, even though the man wasn't speaking particularly loudly. “I need to get out of the city.”

“But my Lord!” The other one replied. His voice was a bit shaky. “The other Lords, they—”

“The other Lords are going to stand by. They have long been jealous of my status, and are more than willing to be rid of me.” His master interrupted him. His voice was cold, and harbored hatred. “Did you get the gate key?”

“Yes, yes.” The other one quickly took out a key from under his cloak, and handed it to him. It was a black metal key, which smelled faintly of burnt flesh.

His Lord held the key between his long fingers. The rings of obsidian and porcelain he wore shone dimly under the street light. The constant frown on his face relived slightly as he examined the key carefully. He handed it back to the servant.

“My Lord,” The servant continued, “You could appeal to the King! You are always—”

“I’m always his favorite, and that's exactly why they would not let me live.” The Lord answered. His face twitched, as if in agonizing pain. “The Ambassador does not wish to see the King rise to his power. And without my aid, the King would remain helpless. There are chains around his neck and spikes on his throne. He can not help me, no more than he can help himself.”

The servant still attempted to say something, but they were interrupted by the noises coming from the main roads. They heard footsteps, not of one person, but of many people, thundering down the street.

“The parade is coming.” The servant said, terrified.

“I need to get out of the city.” The Lord repeated.

“What can I do for you, my Lord?” The servant’s voice trembled. The light above them began to flicker.

The Lord looked at him, and said nothing. He held up his fingers, suddenly started digging them into his flesh. The long polished nails he kept, now stained with blood, dug deeply under the skin. Dark red streams now covered his pale hands, along with the fine rings on them. He proceeded to tear the flesh out violently. The light flickered wildly.

The footsteps were coming near.

In a moment, the Lord took off his pale face, and held it up with his hands. Dark blood streamed down his neck, and disappeared into the cloak. The servant started to tremble. He breathed heavily, heart pounding violently. He did not run.

“Put it on.” The face whispered.

The footsteps were very close now.

The servant took the white porcelain face with his shaky hands, and put it up against his own like a mask. He did not scream.

The footsteps had arrived. People with various masks and wide smiles could be seen, afar on the main road.

The face landed safely on its new body. Black, corrosive liquid streamed down from the servants’ eye sockets and mouth. He was still trembling, but quickly turned to run with all the strength he could get from his corrupting body, away from the parade.

“The Ambassador is here!” Someone shouted.

The crowd made a sharp turn, and swarmed into the back alley with the dim light. In the middle of the crowd was the Ambassador, standing above all others, leading the parade arrogantly. There was laughter, emitted from every masked being. They paraded with their best clothes on, with the rings and necklaces around their fingers and necks, with bottles in hands and the sane world forgotten. The revelry was unstoppable, and they all screamed in wild joy. The Ambassador did not laugh.

The Lord’s old body, with dark blood all over him, still stood in the dark alley.

The crowd closed in, and easily stamped on him. The sound of bones cracking was overwhelmed by the sounds of singing and laughing from the parade. The fine clothes the Lord wore soon became dusted and torn, and the rings of obsidian and porcelain were shattered into pieces. There was no scream, but even if there was, it could not be heard.

The Ambassador watched this for a while, then turned to leave. The parade continued, now spreading all over the city of Alagadda.

But somewhere away from the thundering parade, a man was running. He was a servant, but a servant no more; he was a lord, but a lord no more. When the crowd stepped on his old body, he burst into laughter. The eternal anguished look on his fine porcelain face disappeared. He was now smiling, with mouth wide and black liquid dripping from his face.

He laughed and laughed as he held the burnt key firmly in his hand.

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