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The King Is Dead

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He was really starting to get the measure of the Sanctuary, Will thought. Sure, it was massive, but Magnus had urged him to explore and come to grips with its contents for himself. The more he wandered, the more its eclectic organizational system made sense. Just then he was in what he thought of as the Museum Wing: it held collectibles and knick-knacks from some of the famous people whom Will assumed Magnus had met over the course of her long life.

Everywhere he looked, something new amazed him a little more. Citations for bravery signed by Winston Churchill were tucked away in a set of drawers on top of something that looked very much like an early manuscript of Virginia Woolf's Orlando. He'd touched the sprawling handwriting gently before closing the drawer and backing away. Canvases covered the walls, some by artists whose style he recognized but couldn't name and some by artists even he knew on sight – Munch's trademark creepiness somehow complemented one of Warhol's colour studies of the Big Guy. This stuff had to be practically priceless, he thought, and opened a closet door.

A skeleton leaned forward, grinning maniacally from the shadows.

Will yelped and jumped away, flailing at the air in front of him as if to ward off the skeleton's attack. Backing toward the door, he groped for something to defend himself with. Paper, no; fine china, really no – was everything in here fragile?

Slowly, he realized that the skeleton was being awfully polite, waiting for him to find a weapon.

He glanced back at the closet. The skeleton was still hovering in the doorway, but motionless. And – Will squinted – were those wires? He laughed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration.

"Will?" Magnus sounded worried. "Did you call out?"

"Sorry," he said drily, jerking his thumb at the door behind him. "The damn skeleton in your closet startled me."

Magnus crossed to him. She ran her thumb over the skeleton's occipital lobe as if greeting an old friend. "You might want to be a bit more respectful, Will," she teased. "These old bones revolutionized the rock and roll genre as you know it."

Will gave the skeleton another, more thorough look. "Oh, yeah? Who is it? Or was it?" he asked.

"Oh, come now, you should be able to figure that out yourself, surely." Magnus smiled.

Will clenched his teeth. Was she still testing him? His mind started cataloguing the skeleton's attributes almost without his conscious intention. The bone was still white, not discoloured by age: probably not more than forty years old. The teeth were white and straight: American, then, not part of the British Invasion. Signs of thickening on the elbow joints: he'd have assumed tennis player, but knowing it was a musician, he guessed guitarist. Joplin? No, the zygomatic arch was too broad. The skeleton was probably male. He glanced at the pelvis to confirm and did a double take.

"Magnus," he said calmly, "this skeleton has a double set of hip joints."

"Yes." She was still smiling, waiting for him to get it.

"Are you seriously trying to tell me that Elvis Presley was an abnormal? Elvis? The King?" More than anything else Will had learned since starting at the Sanctuary, this blew his mind.

"Well done, Will." Magnus beamed approvingly. "Yes, Elvis is an abnormal – something we had a great deal of trouble keeping from the authorities." She bit her lip. "I bribed the forensic pathologist, of course but he was such a terrible liar. Cardiac arrhythmia, honestly."

"So the enlarged heart, the..." Will gestured towards the skeleton's pelvis.

"All normal for his species. A parallel evolution from reptiles. Quite fascinating, the adaptations he demonstrates."

"Adaptations? Wait – I thought Elvis wasn't dead?" Will's head was spinning.

"Not last I heard. Though it has been a while; perhaps I should give him a call," Magnus said thoughtfully.

"So this isn't Elvis? Or it is Elvis, but not the real Elvis?" Will pointed at the skeleton.

"It was Elvis. It isn't any longer." Magnus sighed. "You should have seen him in '77, poor thing, trying so hard to hang on to a body that had done more than it was meant to and was ready to morph. I finally convinced him to let go by promising to take good care of it. Took some doing and a spot of grave-robbing, but worth it: he was so much happier once he'd shed his skin, as it were."

"Let me get this straight." Will shook his head. "Elvis Presley, who was an abnormal, actually is still alive, but nobody knows because he didn't die, just generated a new body and left the old one behind hanging in your closet?" He finished ticking points off on his fingers and looked at Magnus for confirmation.

"Simple when you put it like that, isn't it?" she asked mischievously.

"So where is he now? I mean, would I recognize his new body?" Will was mentally running through lists of singers who might literally be Elvis reincarnate.

"Oh, Will." Magnus laughed and patted him on the arm. "That would be telling." She winked and left.

Will watched her go, leaning against the closet. The skeleton rattled on its stand, hips rolling. "That's enough out of you," Will said, shutting the door firmly.

Elvis. Huh.

He paused for a moment, then set out across the room to open another drawer.