The Disease of Beauty

I was on fire- burnt, tired, and baked black by the heat. It was during that painful, torturous moment that I simply snapped. Ever since then, I never tried to be "evil"; I just became so hungry; nothing I ever did would satisfy it. The only thing that would break my spell of hunger- if even for only a little while- was power. So I consumed all I could.

Talking others into joining my force was no easy task. But once I had convinced a few of my intentions to build a new empire, a better empire, the rest quickly followed, much like a herd of sheep. Feuling my army cost many provisions, and therefore, teams were always sent to reroute the trains to supply us, stealing from those who did not yet follow me.

Of course, opposition occurred. Opponents tried to peacefully negotiate the fact that I was not welcome. I knew that I was not, but hunger outweighed my rationality in the end. Some tried violence to try and flush me out. Of course, my army would pay no heed to those weaklings. Opponents were meant for peaceful violence- killing those who did not agree, and without any protest from others- whereas my army, vastly multiplying, strong, and literally undefeatable, were meant for resistance. Nothing could stop me. Some days, I almost felt... full.

But I never was.

Reports of strange, new Opponents came in. They were new and ruthless; killing everything in their path, including our old Opponents. They did not ally, they did not compromise. I didn't know how much attention I needed to pay to them until reports were received that a small amount of our army stationed at the outskirts of a city had been completely obliterated.

At the council meeting, I decided to try a different tactic. "Send out scouts to travel and search for new territory away from the initial attacks," I commanded the general.

He nodded, and repeated my order to Private C. The Private scurried off; no doubt he was going to deliver the information to idle army groups. Dinner was served, though no one was in the mood to eat our stolen provisions at the time. Once the meal had ended, Private C shuffled in and confirmed that small scouting groups had been dispatched.

I had thought all was well. Once he had nodded and sharply saluted, Private C left the room. Once the other council members had gone as well, General C startled me with one of his rare sentences. "These new Opponents are here to kill us. I fear the worst." He abruptly stood up, and left me with an empty room and a feeling of dread.

The scouts returned with no more and no less then they had left with.

"Those new Opponents are everywhere! They are taking over the railroads; we must ration out provisions, and secure our most valuable railroads!" I decided. Private C nodded and ran out to repeat my orders to the impatiently waiting.

Without knocking, a rookie scout burst in, tired from running. "Sir!" he cried.

"Is someone chasing you? What has happened?" I demanded. He gasped for his breath.

"We've captured a New Opponent- he wants to speak with you immediately."

"Bring me General C and his two most experienced soldiers. Then, send for transportation. Now!" I yelled when the scout hesitated. He left to deliver my orders.

General C and his soldiers marched in and saluted. "We must meet this new Opponent. Have your soldiers ready to defend; these Opponents are not to be trusted," I told them.

"Transportation is here, sir." The scout informed us.

I nodded sharply, and we proceeded to exit.

We arrived at the base where the new Opponent was being detained. I met with the commander of the base, and he led the General, his soldiers, and me to where the Opponent was being kept. "Be careful. He's very unpredictable and violent- we've lost several guards already because of him."

Acknowledging his warning, I went in with my general and his soldiers.

Once I had entered the small tent, I was surprised by what I saw. The new Opponent looked like an ox with a child's face. He was sturdily built, powerful, deadly. Yet, his face seemed to have the persistence, the unpredictability, and the ignorance of a child's.

"Good day, sir." He said quite mildly when I approached him. His tone might have been convincing, if I hadn't seen him clench his teeth when I entered.

"Good day to you. I hope all of these... accommodations were to your satisfaction." I politely replied. "Now, it would be much appreciated if you could explain as to why you would like to speak with me."

His face darkened. The childish mask covering his face disappeared, replaced by the cold, hard look of hatred. "We are here to kill. We may not succeed, but we will not stop. Never. Everything must be exterminated," his voice began rising, louder and more forceful. "including you! You-" before he could finish, General C and his soldiers decided to take action and knock him out before any actual violence occurred. The new Opponent slumped over, and I released a breath that I hadn't even realized I was holding.

"Thank you, General C. We should leave now," I suggested.

General C nodded. He left with his soldiers; I remained, staring at the unconscious Opponent before me, just a taste of what was to come. My mind began slowly filling with terror of what lay ahead.

I sank into a depression. How was I supposed to conquer such a worthy opponent? At times I would wallow for hours in dark despair. My hunger was eating me inside-out, and it was then that I stopped to consider- why did any of this ever happen? I never wanted to be bad. I just wanted to be better, stronger, than all of the others around me. How did so much evil result from previously benign ambitions? Regret and remorse filled me, almost surpassing my hunger. I knew, however, that it was too late to go back and fix the chaos I had caused, to bring back the lives that had been lost. No, the only option was to trudge onward, to kill off any remains of pity or pangs of conscience I had left, to stay strong so I could protect those who had unfortunately rallied to me. It was now my duty to protect them, and I was going to, at any cost.

I pushed aside all of my feelings, and replaced them with a stone-cold heart.

With my newfound goal, I summoned the generals of the army. If I was going to keep my followers alive, something had to be done. I was not going to be the one who left when situations were most hopeless.

"Follower count." I demanded when the meeting was called to order.

"Sir, our follower count has dwindled to about half of our original force. However, the weak Opponents have been almost completely wiped out. The newer Opponents are slaying everything, sir." Private C reported gravely.

After considering this unfortunate turn of events, I spoke slowly. "Very well. Increase the reproduction rate of the followers. Give rewards for every new soldier joined. Increase the amount of supplies stolen. Secure the main road. Establish new forts. Comprehend?" Heads nodded, scribes scribbled. Private C shuffled out to announce my orders.

"Any other concerns?" When no one answered, I smashed my gavel to adjourn the meeting. All the members of the meeting left grimly, determined to preserve the remnants of our fleeting civilization.

I was told that New Opponents had invaded yet another camp, slaughtered yet another colony, and were advancing slowly, but surely, to the base camp, where I and General C were preparing for our last stand. Regiments of soldiers were running drills, packaging supplies, and setting up reinforcements around our small citadel. We all knew that the main base was our last chance, and we weren't about to give it up. The New Opponents had made it clear: there could be no survivors.

After only a few more months of slowing the New Opponents, they had obliterated all of the short-lived colonies we had formed, except for the original camp, which the General and I had prepared for war.

As the New Opponents slowly marched towards our small encampment, my army, vastly outnumbered and on the verge of panic, seemed pathetic next to these Opponents. Never had we faced such a hopeless situation. General C ordered his soldiers to line up, as did the New Opponent's general.

Trumpets blared, snare drums rattled, and soldiers were called to attention. A tense silence followed, until the New Opponent's general commanded his soldiers to storm. General C flicked his hand forward, and the first wave of soldiers formed a wall. I winced as I saw the New Opponents thundering through the puny wall, knocking our defenses to the ground. Our counter-attack appeared, large, strong, and fresh, and fought back the first wave of Opponents. On and on the battle went, blow to blow, neck to neck.

Some of the Old Opponents were caught in the midst- some of the last few left in my world- were slaughtered by the ruthless, impartial hands of the New Opponents. They were built to kill, regardless of who. However, I knew that we were born to survive- that confidence and learned ingeniousness on the battlefield kept our small forces together, alive, and vicious.

Soon after the strong marching of our last regiment was heard, cries and roars of pain could be heard; then, jubilant yells of victory. And when it was all silent, a scout entered and confirmed it was safe for the General and I to come out-we had won the war.

I had thought, after we had exterminated the Opponents, that all would be well again and forever. Never had I ever been so wrong. Invisible spies scoured my world, searching for the tiniest shred of evidence of my existence- somewhere, in the back of my mind, I still knew: someone wanted me banished, forgotten, gone. Dead.

It was then, in a regular, dark-red, humid day, that the Great Removal destroyed me. I had been engaged in a conversation about expansion with General C when all of a sudden, huge beams of heat began burning a small section of the city away from the rest of the world, and it was lifted up, and disappeared into the blood red atmosphere. I had no idea what had happened, except that my city was in danger. Retreating from the tavern where General C and I were in, we tried to exit the premises of the city, to escape with our lives. Suddenly, I felt the temperature around me raise rapidly, and I realized the rest of my city was being cut out by focused, incinerating heat, and lifted away from the rest of the world. I was lifted up, up, and away. The last thing I remembered before I was blinded by a strong light, was General C saying, I told you so.

The supermodel adjusted her wig, covering up the bald patches which had resulted from an unfortunate incident. "How was the surgery? Was it successful?" she inquired nervously. The doctor examined some new scans of her leg, where a small, fresh scar had formed, possibly dooming her picky career.

The old doctor sighed heavily. It was always sad for him to see all these cases of skin cancer in such young people. Thanks to modern media, they were always trying to tan themselves, or lose weight, or do something to their bodies in order to make themselves perfect at any cost.

He nodded after inspecting the scans again. "It seems that the metastasis was controlled by the chemotherapy, and the last lesion in your skin was taken out by laser surgery. You're cancer free- for now."

The supermodel sighed in relief, thanked the doctor, and left the claustrophobic hospital immediately. The next day, she would need to tell her manager to schedule another tanning appointment, and find a growth formula to regrow her luscious hair; and damn it, she needed to go on a diet! Her cancer was in remission, and she was back in business. She picked up her cell phone to tell the good news to her friends.

As the doctor looked out the window, seeing his skinny, tall client chattering away on her phone, gesturing to her skin and hair, he shook his head in defeat, and said to himself, "There's only so much that I can do to prevent the disease of beauty."

So, this was a Silver Key winner for Scholastic Writing (Under Sci/Fi and Fantasy). Nothing big, just something I thought I'd post.

Let me know what you think!