“Do that again and you will regret it.”
Those are the words which I will speak in about five minutes, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Welcome to my court. Here I am, sat at my rightful place at the head of the table. Prominent, elevated and overseer of those that have been magnanimously invited to look upon me and bask in their admiration of my glory. I sit, fork in one hand and knife in the other. There is food on my plate but I pay it no regard as I did not prepare it. Instead I am smiling. That rich, bountiful smile of the generous ruler that I am as I allow my subjects to draw close to me and experience a fragment of what it is like to be as brilliant as me. I know I am brilliant because right now the flames of power are high and bright inside of me.
They are strong, they are intense and the power they imbue is washing back and forth over me, causing this rictus grin to become affixed to my face. I could not remove this smile even if I wanted to because it has been plastered there by the power that is coursing through me.
This power is edifying and invigorating, twisting flames which dart and climb inside of me so that I feel as if I am taking off. I have to fight to remain in my seat as I want to leap onto the table, booted feet scattering plates and glasses as I allow this power to overwhelm me and I surge towards a higher place and thus empowered I will speak to those assembled and dazzle them.
My mind races, thoughts fighting with one another. I see the smiling faces, the open mouths denoting laughter, I can hear the delight and amusement that I have caused amongst my dinner guests. I did that. I had all eyes on me, those eyes widening with interest and adoration as I regaled my anecdote to the guests. Each focused pair of eyes, the expressions of concentration, the rapt attention that was flowing my way, the mouths closed, set silent not daring to nor needing to interrupt me, all demonstrated that I was the sole attraction here.
As my own eyes looked from face to face, never truly distinguishing who each person was, I drank in the fuel. It was not the recognition of who those people are but rather the emotions that I could see, hear and sense. Each look of admiration, each closed mouth which told me that the floor was mine and they had no need to interrupt as they wanted to listen, from each of the people sat around the table caused fuel to flow towards me, just as I wanted. Here, in my court, sat in my throne, I am surrounded by my lieutenants and members of my coterie.
These inner circle individuals who are supportive, respectful and loyal to me because they know how fortunate they are to be associated with me. Their laughter, delight and admiration flows around the room, like fuel in a tank and I want it all. How wonderful this power is, how it enables me to shine and dazzle so I receive even more of this precious resource. I nod slowly in recognition, almost able to see the pipelines which lead from each guest to me. I can picture the golden, sparkling fuel as it is pumped towards me, ready to feed those flames of power and then I see it.
Your pipeline is empty. Nothing flows along it. That is when I see that you are not laughing, you are not even smiling at my entertaining recollection. Instead, your eyes show you are bored and you have just rolled them as I delivered the flourish of the conclusion to my tale.
In that instant the flames become doused. They are snuffed out and suddenly the power that they created is starting to ebb and I can feel myself falling, sinking and then that sensation of unease begins to spread, from the centre of my chest and radiating outwards. You are sat there seemingly unmoved by my anecdote but not only that you have chosen to signal to me that not only does it not entertain you, but it bored you. I can feel the wound caused by your bored look. It pains me, evidence of the criticism which you have sent my way, unjustified and unwarranted.
Then it happens. I feel the ignition as the fury has a spark set to it. The rage begins to climb inside of me. I can feel its effect trying to twist my face into a snarl but I have to control it. Important members of my façade are here, it would not do to explode as I feel like I must do so and let you know what you have done to me.
I want to pick up this crystal glass and hurl it from my end of the table to your end so it strikes you on the forehead and knocks you from your seat. I want to smash a plate over your head but I must control these manifestations of the rage that is rising inside of me. I know I can. I have done it many times before. Thankfully nobody else has seen your treacherous behaviour and I manage to shift my blackening gaze from you to the lady to my left and she is continuing to smile. Yes, smile for me Helen, smile, yes, good.
“That was hilarious, I love your stories,” she remarks as she cuts at the meat on her plate.
I feel power returning from this fuel she has provided for me. Thank you Helen, thank you, I knew I could rely on you. Yes, and you as well Tom, good, sweet Tom who never fails to laugh at everything I say and is still doing so. I can feel the rage being beaten back by this additional fuel which continues to fuel. I blink twice, caught between the receding fury and the gathering power from the fuel.
I can sense the relief as the power begins to wash over me again as I avoid looking at you and keep drinking in the fuel from my friends, my good, kind and loyal friends. They know what to do. They would not betray me, not like you. I am beginning to wonder why I even bother with you now. It is not as if you contribute much over dinner anyway. I would have thought that you would have realised that it is your role to support me and allow me to shine, but you seem not to want to do that do you? I don’t know why. It is not as if I have not been kind to you, too kind maybe, perhaps you need reminding of why you exist? Yes, a prompt reminder is called for.
I would cut you down right now with a scything comment but that might fracture the façade. After all, nobody saw what you did and I am not so stupid as to do something which damages everybody’s favourable impression of me. No, my acidic tongue, although itching to lash out at you, for the fury is still there, albeit diminishing, will stay still in my mouth at this dinner table. I continue to drink in the fuel, feeling powerful, emboldened and engorged. I can tell Helen is interested in me and why not? Perhaps a promotion is on the cards for her, moving her from inner circle friends to intimate partner and installation as primary source. She would relish the opportunity. I have no doubt about that.
I am forced to put consideration of a personnel change to one side as I see you leave the table and head towards the kitchen. Here is my chance.
“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen,” I smile again as I stand. All eyes swing my way again, expectation dancing in them.
“I have some more wine for you.”
There is a cheer and the fuel flows further for me at this delighted reaction to my largesse. The flames are climbing now as I leave the table and the chatter of the guests behind and enter the kitchen where you are about to pick up the tiered cake that you have created for pudding. You whip around as soon as you sense my presence and your eyes are round as you have anticipated what is coming. Good, you recognise my greatness and it does not create defiance but rather uncertainty and fear. I can see your concern etched across your face.
“Do that again and you will regret it,” I say slowly, my eyes staring straight at yours, my gaze impenetrable and darkening. You shrink back as I loom over you. I can feel the flames rising as the negative fuel pumps from you, your fear and apprehension just what I wanted.
“Do what?” you reply.
“Don’t fucking lie to me,” I hiss and this makes you jump. The flames lick a little higher.
“I don’t know what you mean,” you protest. You are rooted to the spot but leaning away from me, your body language fuelling me as it displays your obvious unease.
“Yes you do, how dare you fucking roll your eyes at me,” I press.
“Are you saying I am making it up?”
“No, no, I just I er, “you start to flounder, caught between wanting to cling to the truth, truth-seeker that you are and cautious of enraging me further.
“You just what? Spit it out,” I command.
I want to smile as I delight in your apprehension and the simple exhibition of my power over you. In an instant I have drawn my negative fuel from you and stunned you into confused silence. Power indeed.
“Well?” I urge. I am enjoying this. This is all good fuel.
“Nothing. I am sorry, I must have been distracted by something else, I have a lot on my mind with work, you know, I will push it to one side and enjoy the evening, I am sorry.”
Your apology strengthens the flames. I hold your gaze a little longer as your eyes flick from my left eye to my right eye as if you expect to find approval or forgiveness in them.
“You better had,” I say softly as I continue to look at you, “otherwise you know what will happen?”
I extend the forefinger on my left hand and slowly and deliberately push it into the sponge of the cake, my digit driving into the yielding cake. Your eyes stare at the gesture as your mouth tightens in fear. I remove my finger leaving a deep and obvious indentation in the top of the cake as I lick my finger clean. I continue to stare at you and wait.
There it is the compliance I sought.
The fuel flows and now I can turn and return to my waiting admirers having ensured you understand who is the master and who is the servant.
No raised voices. No smashed plates. No slamming doors.
Façade maintained and fuel obtained.
This is what goes on below.