by Taylor Lea Hicks
The Mad King Ludwig, as he was affectionately known to his subjects, preferred absolute isolation when he dined – that is, except for his closest friends: Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, and, of course, Madame de Pompadour. Or, as he called her, Reinette.
It was early morning for the party, about five o’clock in the evening. The quartet sat in jovial silence as they finished a course of Knödel and Kartoffelsuppe. It was one of Ludwig’s favorite dishes, but unfortunately a bit too Bavarian for his French companions’ tastes. Marie, at least, still appreciated the palate of her youth.
“Dear Ludi, I believe the food is especially delicious today,” she crooned, licking her spoon indelicately. “You must congratulate your chef for me.”
“My Antonia, you know I do not speak to my staff unless absolutely necessary. It puts me in a foul mood to do so.”
Reinette laughed daintily. “Why, Ludwig, you are such a boor. Your servants live to serve you.”
“Yes, and they do so wonderfully from afar.” The first course finished, Ludwig rang the bell signaling the table to be cleared and the second course served. With a crank of the gears, the floor began to open beneath them.
“That’s no way to rule. Your subjects need to be kept close to you so you can watch them. Keeps them wary.” Louis waved his fork in the air over the disappearing table. The platform lowered to the kitchen below and the staff hurriedly placed the next course.
“Old Louis, how right you may be, but that is just not my fashion,” Ludwig shook his head as the table was raised to its former place, newly set. “I do not like others so close around me. It is too stifling.”
King Ludwig blinked and rubbed his eyes at the abruptly empty room. He shivered and picked up his fork. Just him and the table, he finished his breakfast in a darkened daze.
Taylor Lea Hicks is a fiction writer, editor, and playwright. She has her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas and is a current student in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton. Her work has been published in Arkansas Anthology, Vortex Magazine, and Cattywampus Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @taylorleahicks or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.