The king stared out of the window across the small stone balcony to three struggling figures on the gravel below.
The drizzle was thin enough to have him recognize the two blue uniformed men who were dragging away a frail pink figure.
‘A woman’, he thought, ‘Who else would wear pink?’
At that moment his eye caught the end of a white pole sticking out of some rose bushes. He surmised that the policemen were too occupied to take the sign with them. No doubt it would be collected soon.
The king sighed. He had been very busy with the coronation and made long exhausting hours. He had tried, for a joke, to count hands he shook, but he had lost count somewhere. The faces of people had become a blur. He had even forgotten what he had eaten today. He wondered what that protester would eat. A hamburger? No… A vegan burger. Something without meat, no doubt. Usually they were vegetarian: crackpots in any event. Always telling others what to think or do.
He turned towards the mirror to dust off his blue uniform with it’s gold and yellow epaulettes and tresses. Not that it needed cleaning, but it was just this thing to do. Everything was meticulously cleaned and pressed. The buttons glistened. And the awards on the left breast were neat rows upon rows of many colored pieces of cloth. These things he had gained over time. He was most proud of the cross he had been given when he had taken part of that skating event that only happened once in a decade and you had to reach to end after skating a grueling hundred miles. None of his predecessors had ever gained one. The knock on the door told him it was time for his next appearance.
Later that night he discovered that the sign was still in the bushes. Apparently the policemen had completely forgotten about it.
What would it say?
Maybe he could have it brought in?
He dismissed the idea at once. If he wanted to read it, he wanted to be the first to touch it. It had to be pristine. All these servants and guards acted like a wall. He felt distanced from the world. He was never alone. Never touched something that was not touched by others. Even on the toilet he suspected there would be people watching him. Hidden camera’s checking on him. Over the years hours of hours of film would be gathered with him groaning on the privy.
He shrugged. It was best not to think about the sign, because it probably would say something nice. Even protesters were nice in this land. Exclamation marks were turned into question marks. It was less offensive to turn statements into questions.
It was boring!
Maybe he could sneak outside. He knew the routines of the guards by heart. And he knew if he kept close to the wall the camera might not spot him. And the dogs? Well, they knew their king. They would ignore him.
He imagined himself James Bond. His hand reaching out to the sign. Grabbing it quickly and then sneaking back inside to have look at it.
There was no place where he could go to be alone with his prize.
His thoughts were interrupted when his wife entered the room: it was time to sleep.
The next morning he rose to a summers dawn. Couples of guards would start patrolling the grounds soon. In the distance, behind the gates, tourists and journalists would gather, hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal family.
He was often advised to stay away from the windows, even thought they were bulletproof and blinded from the outside. They said it attract more people and some of them might be terrorists or other deranged people. Just shooting him would give someone those fifteen minutes of fame.
He peeked outside.
The sign was still there; in those bushes.
It was destiny.
He had to see what it said.
He had to.
Quickly he walked downstairs and expertly navigated the corridors he knew since birth. He increased speed so the servants and courtiers would be left behind. Speed always left them floundering.
On his slippers and in his morning coat, with it’s diagonal stripes of red, white and blue he rushed over the yellow gravel towards the rose bushes. He imagined him superman, with impossible speed he soared towards his goal.
People started to appear from all sides. Guards, who with wide eyed panic saw their head of state run in nothing but a coat and slippers over the grounds in plain public.
The commotion spread like a wave.
The guards didn’t know what to do. They could not wrestle their king to the ground as they had done with that protester.
How to stop this rogue king?
He became aware that outside the fences there were already people. Tourists? Journalists? He saw flashes of light..
He reached the bushes, grabbed the sign and pulled it free.
He lifted it up to read it.
Standing there in full view of a crowd of servants, guards, courtiers, tourists and journalists he held the sign aloft. .
It said: “I am the king. Arrest me!”