End of an era

When the much esteemed Empress died at the age of one hundred and seven, the Crown Prince was informed immediately. He staggered from room to room in the palace shouting ‘It’s all mine. IT’S ALL MINE’. She had lingered on, becoming ever more vague and indecisive, while he mooned about, eating quantities of cake and chocolate as a way of consoling himself for his thwarted ambition. He was grotesquely fat, frequently constipated, and crimson faced. His greatest desire had been to convert the palace grounds into a safari park where corrupt former heads of state could, for an exorbitant fee, hunt exotic animals from the royal zoo. But his implacable mother had blocked him. ‘When the old lady finally croaks,’ he had once told one of her counsellors, ‘I’m going to organize a special hunt in the royal forest, and you will be the prey.’

Free at last of the old crone’s constant interference in his life, he began to make plans for that long-imagined hunt. Nothing would stop him now, the Crown was to be his. He waddled into the audience room, tried to climb onto the throne, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and was pronounced dead a few hours later. The Prince was eighty-eight, separated from his fifth wife, and childless. Few tears were shed over his demise and mourners had to be hired to give the impression the nation was grieving. The government approached those next in line for the throne but could find no one willing to assume the role. ‘All that dressing up and vacuous speechifying? What a yawn,’ said one candidate, who preferred to remain anonymous. There were calls to declare the country a republic and the government bowed to popular sentiment. The Empress and her son were buried together, with appropriate televised pomp, and the royal palaces and country estates were turned into holiday hotels and theme parks. The royal zoo became the people’s zoo where former heads of state who had been convicted of war crimes were sometimes exhibited.





Simon Collings




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