The King Who Banned Bad News

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The royal messenger knelt before the King.  “Sire, I have good new and bad news and bad news.”

The King spoke. “As you know, messenger, I have banned bad news in this kingdom. Give me the good news!”

“Well, the good news is that your edict banning bad news has caught on in other kingdoms. The other kings and dukes are copying your edict and hailing you as a visionary!”

“That is tremendous news, for I love it when people copy my tactics. But you’ve also piqued my curiosity. You can’t very well tell me you have two pieces of bad news and then not tell me what they are. That would leave me in agony! I give you permission—just today—to deliver bad news to me.”

“The first bad news is that your edict banning bad news has backfired, my lord. There is now so much good news in every kingdom that people are growing sick of it. They are sick of hearing about how their neighbor Bob grew a prize-winning tomato, or about how some duchess is beautiful and her children are too. The people long for news of bloody battles, terrible famines, and horrific executions. They long for news that Bob’s prize winning tomato was a fake and that Bob was sent to the hangman. They long to know that a beautiful duchess bore a hideous troll baby and that this baby was banished to a tower of ugliness!”

“Tower of ugliness? I should have such a tower built. I know a few who might be its first tenants,” the King said, surveying the throne room.

The King’s assembled toadies broke into a laugh.

“I was speaking generally, sire. So much good news makes people indifferent to its political significance and yet personally envious of those whom it affects.”

“You are astute, for a messenger. But what was the other piece of bad news?”

“Just this.” The messenger then tore off his disguise, revealing himself to be an assassin, and threw a poison-tipped dagger at the King. Just then, the apparent King tore off a disguise, revealing himself to be a counter-assassin, and threw a poison-tipped dagger at the assassin. Both were struck and collapsed on the throne room floor, blood shooting from their eye sockets, with horrifically twisted expressions on their faces. Their deaths were relatively quick as far as deaths go but seemed to last for eons to the captivated toadies.

The true King, identical in appearance to the dead fake King, then emerged from behind a curtain of red velvet. He spoke.

“Let it be known that all of you spectators are quite beautiful and good.” The toadies broke out into a polite clap.

“And moreover, I am overturning my previous edict and passing a new one. Just as no good deed goes unpunished, from henceforth in this kingdom, no bad news goes unpublished.”

The King then instructed his royal messengers to copy the tale of his attempted assassination to a scroll and to spread it far and wide throughout the land. And the people of his kingdom devoured this bloody tale with satisfaction like the jackals that they were.


Photo by Pablo.

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Written by

Alex Baia is a humor writer and contributor to McSweeney’s and Slackjaw. He lives in Austin, TX.