He stood proud, steeped in bitterness, calloused from exile, recklessly ignoring the twinge of fear that lay in the pit of his stomach. As the crowd fled for safety, Loki smiled at his work. He had spread an infestation of panic, and whatever came as consequence mattered little. Loki was being hunted; he knew it and didn’t mind. Although he felt some cold wind rapidly approaching, there was nowhere to shelter himself from such a storm; it was coming for him, nonetheless. No measure of good deed could stop it now.
Though the room seemed to be shifting from the blur of running citizens, Loki could see someone standing perfectly still as the colors danced around them. A woman watched him, entranced. Even when he noticed her, she did not budge. Loki matched her statuesque expression as their eyes met, then grinned. It was surprising to him that a mortal could stand unwavering while everyone else escaped – perhaps it was just stupidity. He tore the device from the man’s eye socket and sauntered to the door like a shepherd composedly following his startled sheep. It was then when someone grabbed the woman’s arm and pulled her through the terrified cluster, her wild ginger curls easily visible as she, too, began to flee.
Loki looked upon the group, feeling the earthly night chill and the comfortable weight of his scepter in his grip. The human race was pathetic. They would grovel for mercy or pray silently for protection as if they’ve done nothing to deserve death. As he observed them, Loki realized that he wouldn’t mind getting rid of such a ridiculous waste of life. They began to disperse in every way once they were outside. He sighed at their simplicity and multiplied himself, catching the few that tried to get away, herding his frightened prey together. Loki smirked at them, his subjects.
“Kneel before me,” he said, his normally pleasant voice gentle at first, but after a few moments of watching their faces cloud with confusion, Loki was seized with frustration. “I said KNEEL!”
There it was. A true, genuine fear. Loki could see it in their eyes now – Does good always triumph over evil? The fear of the future, of what’s to come and who’s to prevail swallowed them whole. They trembled as his echo reverberated in the night air, and he could feel a heavy silence weighing upon him. With not one man standing, they kept their gaze to the ground and held their breath. Loki observed their faces, how they seemed to have already accepted him as their king.
“There,” he breathed with a chuckle. Why hadn’t he tried this sooner? He was made to rule; this was where he belonged -- he felt it in his being. The way they bowed to his word was like venom, sweet and dangerous. Surely, Loki would become the end of himself – he could feel the very presence of his brother, looming, anticipating a mistake. But he would not become just another shade of gray in the shadow of Thor. Loki stepped toward his people and smirked. “Is not this simpler?” A few people in the crowd glanced up at him, but remained silent. “Is this not your natural state? Freedom is life’s great lie. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power -- for identity. It is the unspoken truth of humanity: that you crave subjugation.” Loki smiled once more, a distinct spark of unadulterated glee in his eyes. “You were made to be ruled. In the end… you will always kneel.”
It went silent. It was as if the entire city was listening, waiting for a savior, or waiting for a command. Someone stirred. An old man stood, calm, defiant. The man shook his head and replied, “We will never kneel to men like you.”
“There are no men like me,” Loki quickly retorted.
“There will always be men like you.”
The crowd turned its attention upon Loki; he could already feel his power slipping. What was he to do? This was Loki’s only known purpose, yet his subjects didn’t agree. Anger began to bubble uncontrollably inside him, and he clutched his scepter. It sparked and glowed alongside him, an outward avatar of the spite he swallowed back as it crawled up his throat. Every King must choose to be feared or pay the price of cheap affection.
“Look to your elders,” Loki declared with fatal sarcasm. “Let him be a shining example.” Just as he lifted the rod to make an example, he quickly paused. Standing between the man and Loki was the lion-haired lady, unflinching, as she stood in the ballroom when others panicked. She looked him in the eye when others dared not. Now she put a slight hitch in his smoothly running plan; she was standing in his way. There was nothing extraordinary about her at all -- except this odd courage that matched the intensity of her curls. The group watched, hypnotized.
Her lips parted to speak, yet nothing came out. “Stop this,” she tried again, her voice faltering.
Loki looked the woman up and down, then musingly chuckled. This, indeed, was a peculiar circumstance – not at all what he expected. He never thought that mortals would be so irresponsible with the one life they were given. “Your courage is commendable,” he responded. “But you have a new king now, and you will do as told.”
She said nothing, her eyes wide in grim anticipation.
“KNEEL!” Loki screamed, on the fringe of desperation.
She cringed at the outburst yet did not indulge her new dictator. She appeared to be thinking -- the cogs turning in her mind were almost audible; her eyes went vacant. After a moment’s hesitation, she took a step forward, then another, another. Warily, the woman weaved through the crowd towards him, never looking away for fear of what would happen if she did. Her irises locked with his were the only tie she had to him. The woman shook her head, her white dress rippling on her slightly trembling frame. No.
Loki was paralyzed by boiling rage, and though she clearly saw this, she didn’t stop walking until god and human were face to face. He waited, seething, the pallor of his skin more deathly grey than humanly possible. Silence drowned them all as they observed. Loki was losing power before it was his to claim; he had to regain it. Impatient anger warmed his blood, settling in his bones comfortably. In one motion, Loki struck her with the back of his hand.
He expected her to shrink back to her place among the crowd, but she clenched her fist and stayed. Her face turned up to his, and a drop of blood trickled down her chin. Her eyelashes fluttered as she blinked away swelling tears.
“You think that pain is no stranger to you, but I assure there is much worse,” Loki hissed, gazing down at her bleached face. “It would not burden my conscience to have every bone in your body surgically removed and replaced with boiling water, but I should like you to keep your spine – I want to hear it crack when I break it.”
The woman wiped the dot of blood from her lip, and shook her head, curls barely dancing at the movement. Was this pity? He could sense the crowd’s hope awakening, feel a rebellion coming all because she wouldn’t back down; Loki despised it. Slowly, hesitantly, she moved her hand to his face, keeping her eyes latched onto his, this time for reassurance. Her green eyes briefly flickered with curiosity, and she wistfully smiled. Loki felt the warmth of her fingertips melt with his skin, and tightened his grip on the dimming scepter in his hand -- his familiar and powerful friend. Like the people who watched, Loki stood crippled with marvel. She took a moment to search his face for any emotion -- whether it be wrath or warmth -- but found only a blank expression. The woman wrapped her pale arms around him, sinking into his chest. Loki tensed, too staggered to do much else. He felt her racing heartbeat pulsing against his armor, and realized that she was terrified. She expected the embrace to end in her own death. It seemed as though she held to him for ages, and he measured the years gone by with each shallow breath she took. She then brought her face next to his and said, “No one is born a monster.”
Loki held his breath. A wave seemed to wash over him, pulling Loki under to the depths of something he had never understood before. He knew that something should happen, but couldn’t quite figure out what. Her words echoed in the caverns of his mind, and he no longer felt the eyes of his new kingdom searing into his flesh. He looked down at the woman still clinging to his chest as a loud droning began to fill his ears.
Loki didn’t notice the crowd scattering until he was snatched by the armor from behind and thrown to the ground. Stunned, the demi-god quickly glanced about him. Loki turned to see an over-inflated boy donned in red, white, and blue, clinging to a star-dotted shield for a weapon. A helicopter circled above as another flying object grew closer – this one, gold and red. Loki clasped the rod as it glowed even brighter than before, burning for vengeance, eager to strike any living person down. No one is born a monster. The words weighed like heavy lead on his tongue, and he murmured it to himself. Loki stared at the oncoming onslaught, as he had so many times before by his brother’s side, and gave a sardonic sneer. Loki was not a monster; he was a god.