Simon was alone. He stood in the darkness, the cold wind piercing him, and his hair whipping around his head. He blinked, trying to remember here he was; why he was standing there…but he couldn’t. He glanced around him, and saw that the grass was covered with a thin blanket of snow, and was littered with dagger-like shards of ice.
Simon suddenly noticed something on his head. Confused, he reached up and felt the cold, familiar touch of metal: the crown. He didn’t remember ever putting it on, though. As he brought his hand down, however, he noticed it was smeared with something red. Simon stared at his hand, then realized that it was blood.
“Wh-what is this?” he gasped. “What happened?!” Simon examined his body, trying to find where the blood came from, but he didn’t seem to be wounded. He frantically looked around, but it was so dark that he couldn’t see very far in front of him.
“H-hello?” Simon called out. “Is anyone there?” He walked forward, the ice crunching under his feet. He strained his eyes to see some clue as to where he was.
Suddenly, Simon heard a quiet voice. His heart lifted, and, relieved, he hurried toward the direction he heard the voice come from.
“Hello?” he said again. “Please, just tell me what—” He stopped suddenly when he saw that several of the pieces of ice around him were covered with blood. More drops of blood directed Simon’s eyes in front of him where, a few yards away, he saw a figure lying on the ground. He ran forward, and as he drew nearer, he realized that the figure looked more and more familiar…
Simon let out a cry in surprise, and stared, horrified, at what was in front of him. Tears flooded his eyes.
“No, no, no… Oh, God, no…” he moaned. Shaking, he knelt down beside the figure, and saw a grey, bloodied hand reach for him. Simon heard a small voice fill the air.
“Mr. Simon… Why…?”
Simon awoke with a start. He shot up in his bed, gasping for breaths, and frantically looked around to assure him that he was, indeed, in his own room. His heart pounded in his chest, and he buried his face in his trembling hands, finding that his cheeks were already wet with tears.
“Sh-she’s safe,” he choked out. “She’s safe, Marcy’s safe, she’s okay…" He kept repeating the words to himself, but still didn’t feel reassured. He struggled to calm himself, to steady his breathing, but images from the dream flashed though his mind: the ice, the blood…
Simon felt sick to his stomach, and he wanted to vomit. He tried to push the dream from his mind, but it felt so real. But, still, it was only that: a dream. He glanced over to his desk, finding that the golden crown was still sitting on the same corner he last put it. The three rubies that decorated the crown stared back at him. Simon looked down at his hands, imagining them being
covered with blood, and he wept bitterly.
After a few minutes, when he finally managed to compose himself, Simon pulled the bed covers off him, and walked over to his desk, where his glasses sat. His shaking fingers fumbled with them a bit, but he managed to get them on. He then opened the door and made his way down the hallway towards Marceline’s bedroom. He had to make sure; he had to see with his own eyes that she was okay.
Simon laid his hand on the doorknob and took in a deep breath. He turned the knob, then pushed the door open just enough for him to see that Marceline, indeed, was still in her bed. He let out a sigh of relief. Moving as quietly as he could, he walked over to the bed and looked down at the sleeping child. Watching Marceline sleep so peacefully, her arm wrapped around her teddy bear, Hambo, warmed his heart. He smiled a little, then bent over and kissed her softly on her cheek.
Simon walked out of Marceline’s room, shutting the door quietly behind him, and went back down the hallway.
As he entered his room, Simon avoided looking at the crown. Sitting back on his bed, he buried his face in his hands, and let out a heavy sigh. He rubbed his eyes, unsure of what he should do next. Simon hated being alone, with only IT to keep him company. He was exhausted, but at the same time he was scared to try to sleep again. Sleep didn’t come easy for him these days, and when it did, he often had nightmares.
Simon sat in the dark silence for a few minutes, his brow creased with worry, until he heard a soft voice.
“What’s wrong, Simon? You looked troubled.”
Simon felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He ignored the crown, tried to pretend like he didn’t hear it, which he knew was foolish. The crown’s voice was inside his head, and nothing he did could block it out. He could sense how annoyed the crown was.
“Do not ignore me, Simon,” it whispered. “Just look at you… Look at how weak you are!”
“Be quiet,” Simon murmured.
“But you’re tired of it, aren’t you?” the crown mused. “So tired of being weak… You’ve lost control of everything in your life. The entire world, thrown into such chaos and ruin, has unraveled, and is now completely devoid of all reason and meaning. The world is dead, and so many have died with it. But not you, Simon; you’ve survived. You’ve see and heard it all; the bombs, the screams, the flames…” The crown paused, then added, “You remember the burning bodies, don’t you, Simon? The smell?”
“Shut up!” Simon exclaimed. He dashed toward the crown and grabbed it with his hands. “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!”
He gripped the crown, his eyes wide with both anger and fear. The room was silent, aside from the sounds of Simon breathing heavily.
Simon could feel the crown’s delight; it finally got a response out of him. “This world is out of control,” it said, “but you, Simon…you can bring order to it! You can control it! You can have it all to yourself! That’s what you want, isn’t it? Oh, yes… I know it is! I can feel the lust for power burning in your heart!”
Simon shook his head rapidly. “No… N-no, that’s not true! I… I don’t want…”
“Oh, Simon, don’t lie!” the crown replied, laughing. “You’d only be lying to yourself! Just think about all you can do; what we’re capable of together! I can help you; I can give you the power you crave so much!”
“I don’t want anything you can give me!” Simon said, incredulous. “Why would I, after everything you’ve done to me?! You’ve given me nothing but pain and misery! You…” He shook the crown, fuming. “You drove my Betty away – YOU did! Now you’re trying to do the same thing to Marcy, but I won’t let you! Just leave me alone, you hear? I won’t let you take me! I do NOT belong to you!”
Simon glared at the crown, daring it to respond. His heart raced, fueling his determination. After a few moments, he heard a low chuckle emanate from the crown, and Simon felt his courage suddenly evaporate.
“Of course you do, silly boy,” the crown whispered in a mocking, sickeningly sweet tone. Simon gritted his teeth, and, letting out an enraged yell, hurled the crown away from him. It hit the wall with a loud thonk and landed on the floor. For a fleeting moment he wondered if all the noise woke Marceline up, but he didn’t really care.
Simon stared at the crown as it rocked slightly back and forth on the floorboard. He gave a small, satisfied smile, feeling encouraged by this small victory against the detestable thing. That feeling, however, quickly vanished, and he felt an overwhelming sense of shame wash over him. What had he done?! After everything the crown had done for him… It – no, she – saved his life, and gave him power beyond anything he could’ve hoped for! He could’ve easily perished as countless others did during the war, but she kept him alive. He owed her everything. How could he be so ungrateful?
Simon frantically rushed to the crown, then knelt down and picked it up gingerly, as though it was something precious and delicate.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he whispered, cradling her in his arms. “I’m sorry.” He kissed her. “I know I was wrong, please forgive me!”
Simon sat on the floor, hugging the crown, his fingers tenderly stroking the cold metal. The crown remained silent; she was still irritated. Simon didn’t like it when she was angry with him.
After a moment the crown responded, “You are forgiven,” and Simon let out a sigh of relief. He kissed the crown again, and held it to his face. The metal was even colder than his body was, but it still felt soothing…comforting.
“Thank you,” he whispered. The crown had always been so patient with him. So understanding. He loved that about her.
“You’ve come so far, Simon,” the crown said, “but there is still so much for you to learn. Don’t worry, though; we have time. We have all the time in the world, my darling.”
“Yes,” Simon said longingly, caressing the crown. He felt at ease. She’d taken care of him this whole time, and as long as he had her, everything would be all right. He was certain of that.
As Simon sat holding the crown, he suddenly realized how drained he was. He couldn’t remember the last time he wore the crown, and during their time apart he grew weaker. After everything she had given him, he still acted like a petulant child. He felt a pang of guilt in his heart.
The crown seemed to understand Simon’s unspoken thoughts. “It’s all right. I’ve missed you, too, my darling,” she said soothingly. “Now, be a good boy…”
Simon was happy to oblige. He rotated the crown to where the three gemstones faced forward. As he raised his hands to place the crown on his head, however, he hesitated – but why would he do that? What could possibly be holding him back?
The crown let out a low growl in her impatience. “Simon…”
Simon shrugged off any reservation he had, feeling ashamed that he would dare hesitate to accept the crown’s gift. Without another thought, he closed his eyes and dropped the crown on his head. He felt the effects of the crown’s power almost immediately. Her icy energy coursed through his body. The air around him even felt different. Oddly enough, the intense cold didn’t make him shiver. In fact, he noticed, the cold didn’t seem to bother him at all. Not anymore. Actually…he rather liked it.
Simon’s breath was slow and steady, his breath visible in the cold air. He felt stronger than ever, more superior, and even, dare he say…regal. He reveled in it. He heard the crown let out a satisfied sigh as her invisible, icy embrace enveloped him. She seemed to be enjoying the moment as much as he was.
“That’s it…” she said tenderly. “Doesn’t that feel better?”
Simon nodded in response. He felt whole again. With the crown, he felt so powerful…invincible, even. He loved the feeling.
Suddenly, Simon felt something move past him. He opened his eyes and saw a strange, cloudy shape in front of him. As he stared at it, the cloud morphed into a ghostly human figure – a woman. Simon blinked in confusion. He didn’t recognize the face, but there was something about her that felt so…familiar. The figure wore glasses, and though she was semi-transparent, he could still make out a faint flash of red in her hair. He thought she was beautiful.
The woman smiled. “Hello, my darling,” she said in a voice Simon did recognize. His eyes widened, and a joyful smile spread wide across his face.
“It’s you!” he breathed. The crown nodded. She reached over placed her hand over his. Because she wasn’t a physical being, Simon couldn’t feel her hand as though it were solid flesh, but his hand felt colder than usual at her touch. He felt a shudder run down his spine, but it wasn’t because of the cold. He couldn’t explain it, but there was something about her face, her smile, that made him desire her.
“Simon…it’s just you and me, my darling,” the crown said sweetly. “Just think of all the things we can accomplish together! Alone, you’re weak, but with me, you can become something great! You can do whatever you want! There’s still so much I’ve yet to show you… So many secrets I want to share with you.”
The crown paused, concern on her face. Simon kept his eyes fixated on her, in complete awe.
“Why do you allow yourself to suffer, Simon?” the crown finally continued. “Why do you allow such painful memories to eat away at your soul? It doesn’t have to be this way, you know. Wouldn’t it be just so much easier to let go of it all… To forget? It’s foolish to keep resisting me.” She smiled. “Just say the word, Simon… Give yourself to me…and I’ll take away all your pain. I’ll make sure you never have to suffer again, my darling. The only thing standing in our way…is the girl.”
Simon blinked, confused. The girl? What was the crown talking about? There was no one else; it was just the two of them… That’s how it’s always been, hasn’t it? But, no, that wasn’t right; there was someone else… Yes, another person…a girl… Oh, who was she, again? Simon’s mind raced as he tried to find a face, a name... Why couldn’t he remember her name? It started with…an N, no an M… Mary? Macy? No, no, that’s not it… It’s…it’s….
Simon’s eyes widened, and his foggy mind suddenly became clear as he snapped back out of his reverie. His face hardened in defiance as he glared at the crown.
“No. Never… Not her, not Marcy!” he said, furious. “Leave her out of this, do you hear me?!” Simon balled his hands into fists; his grip was tight enough for his nails to pierce the skin of his palms. He was filled with filled with rage toward the cursed thing. It had even dared to take on the appearance of Betty – HIS Betty. The crown was making a mockery of him.
“You…you will NOT harm my little girl!” he growled.
The crown’s eyes widened in surprise, then a sly smile spread across its face. “What’s this?” it teased. “You actually think of the little demon brat as your own daughter?”
“Of course I do,” Simon said through his teeth. “Marcy is my family, and I will not let you hurt my family!”
The crown’s grin spread wider. It let out a high, cruel laugh.
“Oh, Simon, Simon, Simon…” it said, gleeful. “Silly boy, you know I can’t harm her! How can I? No, my darling…” The crown reached out and stroked Simon’s cheek tenderly, sending a paralyzing chill down his spine. It lowered its voice to a whisper. “I will leave all that…to you.”
Simon’s heart sank. “NO!” he shouted, jerking away from the crown. He pressed his back into the wall, head shaking frantically. “No, no, no, no, no, no…” Tears welled up in his eyes. His entire body shook. He looked up at the crown, who smirked at him. It took delight in his agony.
“P-please,” Simon moaned, “please, I…I beg of you, just leave h-her out of this! You can d-do whatever you want with me, but I – I can’t hurt Marcy! I can’t… I won’t! I won’t do it! I love her, and I have to protect her!”
The crown continued to smile, looking amused. It moved closer to Simon, who flinched away. The crown let out a giggle at the sight of the pathetic man. It leaned forward so that its face was just inches away from his.
“Protect her?” The crown’s voice was a whisper, but it pierced Simon like a dagger. “What exactly are you hoping to protect her from, hmm? The only monster out there who could harm her, dear Simon, is you. So, if you really want to protect that child from something… Protect her from yourself!”
The crown’s voice hung in the air. After a few moments, Simon looked up, tears streaming down his face.
“S-stop,” he croaked, but he knew his words were meaningless. “Please, stop! I…I could never…!”
The crown’s eyes widened. “Oh, but you could!” it said, its voice filled with excitement. “You know you could, Simon! You know it because you’ve already seen it happen!”
Suddenly, Simon’s mind was flooded with images from his dream, and a wave of nausea hit him again. He shut his eyes tightly.
“No...” he whispered, sobbing. “God, please, no…” He pressed his hands over his ears, but it was useless; the crown’s voice filled his head.
“Just how did you think this would all end, hmm?” the crown said smugly, with an air of authority. “Have you really deluded yourself to believe that the girl could come out from all of this unscathed…that such a miserable, pathetic little man like yourself could ever keep her safe and happy?! No, Simon…you’re a fool.”
Simon shook his head. “No,” he moaned, “I won’t hurt her, I won’t, I won’t!” He looked at the crown, imploring it. “Just…just leave me alone, please! Leave me alone…”
The crown’s face softened. The mocking expression changed to become softer, more caring. It reached out and placed its hands on Simon’s.
“Oh, my dear Simon, don’t despair,” the crown said soothingly. “Everything will be all right in the end, you’ll see! Very soon it’ll be just the two of us, for all eternity. That’s the way it was always meant to be! But know this…” The crown’s face suddenly darkened, its voice more threatening. Its mouth spread wide into a sadistic smile. The crown stared Simon straight in the eye, filling his heart with dread.
“You can keep fighting me all you want, but it is folly. I will never, ever stop… Not until I have you all to myself, my king!”