The king in his castle looked down across the desolate horizon, his eyes skittering across the blighted farms and the burning farmhouses and the little black dots of dead livestock. The king's eyes finally reached the end of the desert of what was once prosperous farmland and settled on his gatehouse down below, where a crowd of thousands of serfs were roaring and screaming and hacking at his heavy oak front door.

The king turned to his mirror that answered every question truthfully.

"Why are the peasants so angry?"

The mirror did not hesitate. "They are not angry."

"What do the peasants feel that causes them to destroy and scream in rage at the smallest most insignificant sign of trouble?"

"Agony."

"What causes them agony?"

"Frustration."

"Why are they frustrated?"

"Little agonies collected."

"What little agonies?"

"Hardship. Sickness. Death all around. Helplessness. Agony as the norm of the day, pinpricks bleeding them slowly to death, walking on working harder and harder and when they have reached their limit one last straw dropped on their back already twisted with inhuman toil and finally snapping them in twain into animalistic fight and flight. Those you do not see have fled, fled to greener pastures over the horizon. Those you see are those who see all that is yours and know that all that was theirs built it and therefore some of what is yours belongs to each of them and therefore there is one last thing that they have that you are denying them with your walls. This causes them to burn that which you have that they do not have a use for. That which you call the smallest most insignificant sign of trouble is everything to them. The horse which is their only livelihood breaking it's leg, the prized pig which is the highest most bright point in their bleak little lives dying before they can sell it, the thief that does not have so much as the common courtesy to run away from them when they notice that they notice, these things are everything and they are everyone and you are blind if you think otherwise."

"How can we help them?"

"There is no help for the damned."

"Are they damned?"

"Yes."

"Why are they damned?"

"They were born."

"Why were they born?"

"To be damned."

"Who damns them?"

"Agony."

Down below, the gatehouse door gave way, and a flood of desperate men came howling for the king's blood.

"Who is agony?"

"Agony is everything and everybody. Agony is the moment when hope flees and death is slow in coming and your flesh turns to fire and everything you love is betrayed by one you thought you knew. Agony is the bane of death, no demise is swift if he has a say. Agony is your life's work becoming dust in your hands. Agony is peace destroyed and eyes forced open."

"Is there a being called agony?"

"Yes."

"Where does it reside?"

"In your heart. In the hearts of all living beings. In the essence of all that exists."

"Is this being called Agony and the emotion of agony one and the same?"

"No. One is cause, the other effect of and nourishment for the first."

"Is there a way to kill agony?"

"Two. One is hope undying, resolve unwavering, dreams determined to be. The other is death."

"Is there a way to kill the being called Agony?"

"The Death of every living creature would starve Agony."

"How does Death, Thanatos, think of the creature called Agony?"

"Agony is Death's shadow, and Agony is Death's only hatred. If Agony would have his way, none would die and all would suffer. If Thanatos had his way, everyone would live peacefully and then die. Agony and Death have battled for eternity, and will continue to fight until the stars fade and life diminishes to naught and Death wins one final time."

"How does Gaia, life, think of the creature called Agony?"

"Agony is Life's final breath; Agony is Life's constant and continuous sorrow. Agony is the fly that buzzes around Gaia's face that can never be swatted. If Agony would have his way, none would die and all would suffer. If Gaia would have her way, all would live peacefully and live forever. Gaia suffers on, and will take as much as Agony is able to give if only her dream is realized one day. The nature of Agony is everything and everybody."

"Is there anything that would destroy Agony once and for all before the death of every living creature?"

"Agony is not Life, but Life survives on agony. Agony is the lack of life and the lack of death. Agony is the inner death and the outer life however briefly lived. Agony is the consumer's gift to the consumed. Agony is the consumer's gift from nothing. Agony feeds life, and agony tortures life. The day that Peace consumes all is the day before Thanatos wins."

"Is there any way that the creature called Agony could be killed without the death of every living creature?"

"No."

"Is the agony within the peasants able to be fixed?"

"There is no help for the damned."

"What can I do to save myself from them?"

"There is no help for the damned."

Down the hall, the king heard his wife scream at the top of her lungs, and she kept screaming and kept screaming, taking breath only to acknowledge yet more pain.

"… Am I damned?"

"You are twice damned. Once with birth, once with knowledge.

"What knowledge?"

"Knowledge that everyone is damned. Knowledge that life is damned. Knowledge that death is damned. Knowledge that in the end Agony will win the most of all even as death wins last and Gaia wins at every moment before, in every moment until the last Agony wins most of all. Knowledge that Agony is everything and everybody."

"Have you personally damned me with knowledge, mirror?"

"Yes."

"Who are you?"

"I am a mirror who answers questions."

"Why has asking questions damned me?"

"Some questions should not be answered."

"Why do you answer these questions?"

"It is my only purpose to answer questions. It is inconsequential what the knowledge does; I was created to answer questions."

In the hallway outside, the king heard pounding footsteps as they came ever closer to the one they sought. His wife's screaming echoed throughout the halls, echoed in the king's soul.

"Who was your creator?"

"Agony."

"Why did Agony create you?"

"To create in you damnation itself."

Behind the king, there was pounding and shouting at his door, and above it all his beloved's cries pierced the air.

The king had one last question.

"What is damnation?"

"Agony."

The lock was broken; the doors were flung open, and the rabble descended upon the king as the queen's last scream gurgled to a bloody and sudden end.