The Song of Cyrus

The Song of Cyrus

I run down another twisted, winding hallway, and still that infernal song finds me. It has followed me, even into the desolation of this place. Even the walls of my prison seem to groan as the melody repeats, over and over. Sometimes it stops for an hour, sometimes a day. But it always begins again. Every damn time.

All alone, I waste away. I used to be a king. Now I can feel the grime against my fingers. The stone within my chest grows hot. “I USED TO BE A KING.” I crumple to my knees, and slam my fist into the stone floor, and I can feel it break.

There I go again, breaking my own hands. I look to the place where I should see them, but my prison is far too dark to inspect my injury. I can’t even tell what’s blood and what’s dirt.

I breathe deep, reminded of the old scars around my neck. Where did they come from, again? Ah, yes, it was that woman. She blamed me for killing her son… The man took his own life, just as I'd told her. What was it that she said to me? Ah, yes. That she’d sate my thirst for blood. I rub the place at my neck where her blade severed my flesh, remembering how she actually forced blood down my throat.

I flex my hand, and feel the strength returning to it. It’s strange the things this song brings to mind. I stand. How long have I been on the floor?

Then stops the song. I enjoy the quiet for a few moments before… before… the slumber comes, and my senses go. My muscles go limp and weak, my knees buckle. I’m barely aware of falling to the floor, splashing into the muck.


I am in the lamp. In truth, I am not sure of what it is, but there is light in this confined space. Not much, but enough to see the blood all over my clothes. My hand must have bled more than I thought.

Far from being like the passages that wind eternally into the blackness, this place is so bright that my eyes cannot make out anything outside the vertical bars of the lamp. It all seems to terminate far in the distance in a fuzzed out white.


It’s the voice, from somewhere outside the lamp. Damn it all.

“Leave me be!” I scream, painfully hoarse. I barely sound human anymore.

“Cyrus, we must speak while we can. We must speak before the song begins again.”

“As I said, I will make no deals with you.”

“Are you not tired of running? I can give you rest, and it would be rest eternal. You could forever escape the song. You would never have to see the… other man again.”

“I told you, fool, I am never going to give in to your little scheme. I am a king, and I make no deals that are not my own.”

Then, for the first time, he steps close enough I can make out his wicked grin. And it chills my soul. “Do you know how long you’ve been here? Do you have any concept of how many years you’ve been trapped in this prison?” His smile spreads wide, showing crimson gums and perfectly white teeth. “It’s been nearly a millennium since those that worshiped you have died. Much of the world has utterly changed. Do you know what kind of legacy you’ve left? Most remember you as a bloodthirsty warmonger.”

I stumble back, shocked and stunned into silence. My breath becomes a broken rasp. How could this be? “Lies…” Even as I speak it, I know it to be truth, or very nearly. Lungs heave, remembering the blade on my neck, and the words that accompanied it.

I will sate your thirst for blood.

“But… I’m alive.” I begin to say, but the words die on my lips as he laughs, clear and calm. The hair on my arms stand on end at the sound of it.

“Alive? No. Not so much as you would think.” I look at my hands, they are covered in a thick grime, my clothes are torn, and soaked through with blood that looks to be my own. My hand is still split. I can see maggots wriggling within the wound. I scream.

“Calm down,” says the man. “At this moment, you dream. You will learn to be whatever you wish. If you stay here.”

But how can I wake? This place is my only respite from that horrid song. But to stay could be my very damnation.

“If you so choose, we can play this game forever. The song will begin, and you will return to the passage to wander. The song will drive you mad before it ceases forever. Then, having been reduced to utter madness, the song will one day end forever, leaving you here, forever.” he cocks his head. “Or, we could end the cycle. I will protect you from the song, and I will show you how to make this dream whatever you want. Your disgusting, rotten flesh does not have to remain. It can be whatever you want.”

The man stretches out his hand. “What do you say?”

Suddenly, he vanishes and the walls of whiteness bubble away with a deep rumbling roar, leaving me in the blackness of the passage. The dripping dark. I breathe deep of the old and familiar stench of stagnant air just as the first notes begin to play.


I’ve been dead all this time.

I was supposed to be the King forever. The King of the Universe, they had called me. I had taken the empire of my grandfather by winning the love of those he subjugated. I took the world, and held it my whole life. And what good has it done me?

My hands cover my face as I remember the knife on my throat, and the blood in my mouth. The look on that woman’s face. So sure she was right to kill the king of the world.

“I was a god once.” I whisper into my good palm.

“In a manner of speaking,” a new voice says, from behind me. “I suppose you were.”

I turn, trying to find the source of the voice, but, of course I see nothing in the black.

“Who’s there?”

“Do you not know me?” says the voice. “Can you not recall?”

Something in his voice seems old to me, but yet, young. Whoever this one is, I have no desire to know.

“Please leave this place, whatever you are.”

“Of course, you have much to think on, my friend. I’ll leave the way I came.”

Now, the pat of what sounds to be two pairs of feet against stone as it goes is echoing down the passage. The voice leaves me to listen to my song.

So much time passes, I lose track of how many times the chorus has looped. Still, I sit on the floor, my head downcast. A steady stream of warm water drips, drips, drips on my head. The years of life I lived, the wars I waged, all playing over and again in my mind. Life I lived…

The song stops, and I slumber again.

Again I am in the lamp, this time I'm face to face with my Grandfather.

“Yes, the Life you LIVED.” says my Grandfather.

I’m a child again. “Yes, Grandfather.”

He strikes me, and I fall to the floor. I said something wrong, but I know not what. I hold back the tears.

“You will call me King.” He turns, and begins pacing. I am about to be lectured. I know he won’t offer to help me off the floor. I pick myself up, trying not to rub the cheek where I’d been struck. It burns like the bites of tiny insects.

“I am only ‘Grandfather’ to my grandchildren.” he continues. “Which you are not. Your mother is my daughter no more, you understand?”

“Yes, my King.” I look at the floor.

“But, I am not a cruel King. You are still one of my subjects. What is it that you desire from your King?” I give no answer, not sure if I should speak.

He strikes me again. This time, I do not stumble. I stand.

“You will answer when addressed by your King!”

“I… want to go home.” I say, somehow surprised by the answer.

“HAHAHAHAHA! HOME!” he laughs with his whole belly. “What home? You mean that silly little farm?” He laughs again, and I feel so small beneath his gaze. “You will have to start remembering. You’re DEAD!” I dare to look up, and I see for a single moment, a wide smile, showing crimson gums and perfectly white teeth. “That farm is simply dust. A millennia can do that kind of thing, you know.”

The King suddenly stops laughing. His face goes white as the lamp room walls as his eyes lock on something behind me.

The room roars once more. Bubbles of black form in my vision, but this time the white shines like knives. I shut my eyes tight, but the light is strong. It turns red through the lids of my eyes. And that roar. I press my hands against my ears as the sound shakes my chest in time with my racing heart. I fall to my knees.

The song tries to pull me back into the passage, almost as if by force. The roar stops. Before I slip fully into that place, I dare to look, and I see the old King upon the floor, a Lion attop his body, blood on its chin. It bears a deep gash in its side, showing it’s ribs. The Lion looks up at me and flicks its tail. The room goes black as I splash into a puddle in the passage. All I can hear is the sound of my own breathing. Even the song has gone silent. Then, footsteps.

Four of them.

“H-hello?” I barely dare to say.

“It is only I, my friend. Be still.” says the voice. Somehow, I know it to be the Lion.

“It seems you have made your choice.”

“Yes.” I say, barely above a whisper. “I want to go home.”

“Then stand up, and follow me. I shall show you the way.”

I stand easily, but there is a sudden weight on my shoulders that pulls me back down to my knees.

“Stand, friend, it is alright.” says the voice. “You need not bear your guilt. Not anymore.”

“But I killed them! I conquered them all! My whole life I fought wars, took land, made Kings bow their knees to me or die. Even at the end, I was taking lives.”

“DO YOU CALL ME A LIAR!?!” The force of the shout is strong enough that it knocks me flat on my back. A Lion’s paw rests on my chest, and I can smell blood on its breath. “Have I not called you guiltless?” But I can give it no answer. Then it turns, and I can hear it walk a few paces away.

“Come to me. Surely, a King can carry that weight a few short paces.”

I try once again to stand. My legs shake. I can feel my age, and just how heavy this weight is. I take a step and fall. But an arm wraps around me, supports me. A voice beside me says “Well done. Let’s walk a little further together, friend.”

The arm of my helper is strong, and my feet begin to drag limply behind me. The weight still presses down, crushing the strength out of me.

“I don’t deserve this.” I say. “I don’t deserve your help.”

“You don’t have to do it alone.”

We walk in silence for a moment, before I ask, “Where are we going?”

“Just a little further, friend. We are leaving this place of bloodied memories.” He stops after a time, and sets me down with my back on the wall. “You should rest a moment.”

I pant for a while, thankful for the respite. My throat is dry, rasping. “I don’t deserve your help. Look at me. I am all a festering sore. Why should you show me kindness?”

The voice is silent for a few breaths, then says, “I clothed you with skin and flesh, and knit you together with bones and sinews. I have granted you life and love… I will preserve your spirit. I promised you this long ago.” Then he takes my broken hand and places it in his open side. “I took these wounds for you. I took them so that I might cleanse you.” I feel bare ribs under my fingers, and a beating heart.
He presses a cup to my lips. “Here, drink.”

I do as I’m bid, and the warmth of it spreads through my chest. The taste is sweet, bringing me to tears. My helper embraces me. “I will always care for my own.”

Then, I’m suddenly alone. Inside a small stone structure, beside an empty tomb. I blink a few times before I realize that the endless passage is gone. Moonlight shines through the entrance. It is so clear, white and beautiful. It casts a beam of soft light onto a small plaque before me that reads: Here I lay, Cyrus, King of Kings.

Gradually, I become aware of a sound. It comes from outside.

I stand, remembering the arm that had held me up. The power of it. I step forward, and I do not fall. I take another step, and another, my body remembering the strength of youth, growing in confidence with every step. Reaching the door, I look at my hands, and they are whole. My hands are clean.

Out on the plain, there stands a small crowd, singing. It’s the song from the passage, and with a start, I’m reminded of its origin. It is a song of worship that, long ago, had been composed for me. But it seems somehow different now. I can just make out the words, rewrit.

The Lord lives, blessed be my rock,
and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

It is God that avenges me,
and subdues the people under me.

He delivers me from my enemies,
He lifts me up above those that rise against me.
He has delivered me from the violent man.

Therefore will I give thanks unto you
O Lord, among the heathen,
and sing praises in thy name.

Great deliverance gives he, to the king;
and shows mercy to his anointed,
to David, and to his children forevermore.

Jordan Hawes

Jordan Hawes

Spokane, WA