When the ground shook, it started off as a slow rumble, simply vibrating the metal springs on his twin sized bed causing them to rattle back and forth against its steel frame. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have responded. The ground here had tremors frequently and other than a little dust from the ceiling of their cavern home, there wasn’t much excitement to be had.

He didn’t get out much. At least, he didn’t used to, but he thought back to his years in captivity frequently, and sometimes he even thought beyond that. The earthquake was the single point in time that changed his life for good. Before the earthquake, he wasn’t just a nobody; he was worse than a nobody, he was a killer. A killer that was lost and forgotten in the depths of the most mind numbing prison. But the earthquake. The earthquake changed all of that.

As he sat on his bed that day, he replayed the pivotal moment that led him down a path that would forever torment him; not because of the action he took, but because he feared he would never be able to feel that free again. For years, he was a prisoner in his own mind, unable to act out the impulses that made him feel so free. He remembered watching the boy ride his bike back from school. Every day the boy passed his house; every day he watched him. Finally, after much torment, he stepped outside.

He remembered the boys shock at first, the fear that drenched his face. The surprise that a human being could be so cold. More importantly, he remembered how free he had felt afterwards, how relieved he was that he could finally reveal himself to the world as he truly was. But then it ended and all that was left was a memory. Until the earthquake.

Now, he was a king. Sitting high above his subjects, he ruled with sovereign power. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and all people would give tribute to him. Minions and pawns scurried about around him, grateful that he had allowed them to live after that fateful day. The day that the gods had declared long ago was his for the taking. One cleaned, the other cooked. Others stood guard. He had sought this recognition for years and never found it. But he was an opportunist. And when opportunity struck, he seized power.

He wasn’t large or tall. But he was smart. And he was vicious. All those years imprisoned in his own mind gave him time to think. That is what separated him from the others. He murdered because it was who he was, not because of his circumstances, but because of who he was to his very core. While others concerned themselves with revenge, or getting back at the guards, he went straight for the resources; the one thing that had to be controlled to force everyone else into subjection under his feet.

Then, all it took was one to make an example of. To show the rest how absolutely brutal he could be. He didn’t like to get his hands dirty when it came to politics, but that first one had to happen. Soon, others joined him. He consolidated resources and had something to offer. Food, shelter, and protection. All in exchange for unwavering loyalty. Eventually, all the people submitted to his rule.

Here, in this dark, chaos filled place, he brought order. He brought meaning. He brought purpose. They called him Malek. King. And that’s what he was to them. He was their King.

Written by Thane Keller

Thane is a native of Northern Virginia that has been traveling the world with his wife and four children. Thane researches and writes about technology, innovation, leadership, decision-making, and organizational change.