aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 35: The Voices Of Children In His Tents

Fast cars! Fast women! Fastidious adherence to the precepts of the moral law!
Steven Kaas

Spring 1982
Citadel West, Colorado Springs

Somehow the Comet King had become an adult. He had skipped puberty, telling Father Ellis that it sounded like too much trouble. One day he was a child; the next, his voice dropped, white hair grew on his chest, and he declared he would be having children. All the children.

His logic was simple. His heavenly descent gave him special powers. Intelligence, wisdom, physical strength, spiritual mastery. He, in turn, would pass these on to his children. The more children, the more supernaturally-gifted warriors, administrators, engineers, and scholars they would have for the dark times ahead. An army of Cometspawn, growing to adulthood faster than any mortal, each one pushing forward the day when they could march across the Bering Straits and drive the demons back below the Earth. He requested that the women of Colorado step forth to help him in the project.

“Now hold on,” Ellis told him. They were in the newly-completed throne room deep beneath Cheyenne Mountain, in the underground fortress that had once housed NORAD. The Comet King sat on a throne covered with black opal. Father Ellis’ official title was Royal Confessor, but the Comet King consistently denied having anything to confess; his real role was advisory. Some days he didn’t have any advice either. Today was not one of those days. “This is madness, Jala. You can’t just impregnate every woman in an entire state.”

“If you are talking about sexually transmitted diseases,” the Comet King answered, “I will screen for them carefully.”

“I’m talking about the natural law!” said Father Ellis. “Marriage! Family! Partnership between a man and a woman who join together into one flesh, help complete each other!”

“I am complete,” said the Comet King.

“You told me that you were keeping me around to tell you how to stay human. Now I’m telling you. Having children isn’t something you do for anyone else’s convenience. It’s a sacred act. If you do this, you’re taking a step away from humanity, and it’s going to come back to bite you.”

“Perhaps you are right. I accept the slight cost to my humanity as an acceptable risk, given the possible gains.”

“It doesn’t work that way! Sin isn’t a ledger that you balance. It’s about…about…can you feel it, Jala? Goodness isn’t just numbers. It’s something palpable, something burning and beautiful. People talk about having a relationship with God, but it’s closer than that. More powerful. More immediate. And what you’re saying…it takes away from that thing. It’s not in line with it. If you could feel it, you wouldn’t be calculating how many strategic deviations from doing the right thing you can allow yourself.”

“Father, have you become a mystic?

“No, I just…I feel like I’m trying to explain the nature of virtue to a rock. Either you can see why what you’re saying is crazy, or…call Vihaan. You listen to Vihaan. He can explain what I mean.”

Uncle Vihaan’s official title was Chief of Staff, but he always called himself “the butler”. He managed the Comet King’s growing circle of advisors, visitors and petitioners, and organized his schedule around the constant meetings required of the fledgling government. When somebody finally found him, he came into the throne room disorganized, still carrying a stack of papers.

“What is it?” he asked. The Comet King started to speak, but Ellis interrupted him.

“Jala wants to have kids with half the women in the state! He wants to…breed some kind of conquering army! Tell him this isn’t how people do things!”

Vihaan’s face fell. “What about marriage?”

The Comet King thought for a second. “I would rather not have to worry about it. But if it were important to you, I could marry them all, like Solomon.”

Vihaan’s head was bobbing back and forth in exasperation. “Everyone from our family…” he said. “You come from a good family, Jala. Marrying good people. No sex before marriage. It wouldn’t be…proper.”

“Proper?” asked the Comet King. “I come to you with a plan to fight off Hell and save the world, and you tell me it isn’t proper?”

Vihaan stared at the priest, as if begging him to step in. “I swear,” said Father Ellis, “it’s like explaining the nature of virtue to a rock”.

“Do you know,” interrupted Jalaketu, “that whenever it’s quiet, and I listen hard, I can hear them? The screams of everybody suffering. In Hell, around the world, anywhere. I think it is a power of the angels which I inherited from my father.” He spoke calmly, without emotion. “I think I can hear them right now.”

Ellis’ eyes opened wide. “Really?” he asked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t…”

“No,” said the Comet King. “Not really.”

They looked at him, confused.

“No, I do not really hear the screams of everyone suffering in Hell. But I thought to myself, ‘I suppose if I tell them now that I have the magic power to hear the screams of the suffering in Hell, then they will go quiet, and become sympathetic, and act as if that changes something.’ Even though it changes nothing. Who cares if you can hear the screams, as long as you know that they are there? So maybe what I said was not fully wrong. Maybe it is a magic power granted only to the Comet King. Not the power to hear the screams. But the power not to have to. Maybe that is what being the Comet King means.”

“Do you think,” asked Ellis, “you’re the first person to ask the Church to compromise its doctrines because you have a good reason?. It’s…no, you won’t listen to me. But you might listen to your people. Ask the people, Jala. They’ll tell you.”

“WE’RE NOT YOUR BABY FACTORIES” read the signs of the National Organization of Women, who held a demonstration in the Garden of the Gods against the plan. “The Comet King is proving he sees women as objects, as walking wombs,” Mary Lutha, the organization’s leader, told an NBC reporter. “I think the women of Colorado want the Comet King to know that they reject this denial of their agency.”

The Comet King did not grant interviews, but a source close to the citadel mentioned that when confronted with the claim, he had stated matter-of-factly that the twenty-four thousand applications he had already received were quite enough and Ms. Lutha’s help would thankfully not be needed.

‘SHAME ON COLORADO EUGENICS’ read signs held by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who held a demonstration beneath the Shrine of the Sun against the plan. “The Comet King needs to know that the black and brown people of Colorado aren’t going to stand for his plan to create a master race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed babies and then kill the rest of the population.”

The Comet King was not known to grant interviews, but a spokesperson assured everyone that killing the entire population was the last thing on the Comet King’s mind, and also how was a dark-skinned man whose mother came from India supposed to create a race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed babies anyway?

“This is madness,” he told Ellis and Vihaan in his throne room beneath the mountain. “The people have always gone along with my plans before, even when they were dangerous, even the ones that led to privation and difficulty. Nothing could be simpler than this. A few thousand women, no cost to anyone who does not volunteeer, and the kingdom will be unstoppable.”

“Vihaan is against it,” said Ellis. “The people are against it. And I’m against it. Listen to your advisors, Jala.”

“The people are confused,” said the Comet King. “Once they have pictures of smiling babies to make them happy, they will realize my children are no scarier than anyone else. Vihaan, we have applications. Find me a handful of women willing to go first. Make sure they are physically fit, intelligent, and free from genetic disease. And make them all different races; that will quiet the blond-hair-blue-eyes crowd. I will start with just a handful of children, to show the people there is no danger, and once the protests quiet down we will start the full breeding program.”

“I still don’t think this is right,” protested Vihaan.

“I respect your advice,” said the Comet King. “But I have made my decision.”

Vihaan muttered something about how he was just the butler, and far be it from him to disobey an order. But Ellis wasn’t satisfied. “I’m not your servant, Jala, I’m your confessor. And it’s my job as a confessor to tell you when you’re sinning, and not to be okay with it, no matter whether you’ve made your mind up or no.”

“Fine,” said the Comet King. “Go petition the Dividend Monks. See what they think. See if there are any prophecies.”

It was an obvious attempt to get rid of him. It worked. Ellis set out for Sawatch. Vihaan stayed behind to sort through the paperwork. Of the twenty-four thousand applicants, he carefully selected four. They met with the Comet King below Cheyenne Mountain. One of them went to the tabloids later and described the Comet King’s lovemaking as “efficient” and “peremptory”.

A week later, Father Ellis returned from the Sawatch, bearing a message. The abbot had sat upon the Continental Divide, entered a trance, and from that place amidst the Pillar of Mildness issued a prophecy. All the descendants of the Comet King, he said, would die screaming in horror and agony, cursing their father’s name.

Nine months later, four physically fit, intelligent women gave birth to four genetic-disease-free, racially diverse babies.

The Comet King had no more children.

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