It was still dark out when he got the news. He was alone in his room, and then suddenly, he was not. A slender red-haired woman who had appeared at his side whispered the words, “It’s you, Adam. People has chosen you,” then quickly and gracefully flung herself out the window. He could hear screams drifting up from the street. He wiped his eyes.
“It’s me.” A grin broke out across his face, and the power of it woke the rising sun. “It’s me.”
The rest of the day was a rush of Coronation duties — he was carried in a pearl daïs by retired Victoria’s Secret models (the angel wings, he learned, weren’t a costume; in fact it was incredibly difficult for them to hide it off the runway) to the ceremony, declared once and for all who wore that Miu Miu wrap dress best, had lunch with Ginnifer Goodwin, left a drunk voicemail for Cee Lo Green telling him how much he appreciated him.
He’d spent most of the day trying not to think about what came next. But it came just the same. The room was dark, and warm, and small.
“Bring forth the last king,” Faith Hill intoned. “Bring forth the lamb for the slaughter.”
Adam held back a gasp as a bound and beaten Channing Tatum was led into the room. His head was lolling forward, and a guard struck him with the butt of her rifle. “Look your king in the face,” she commanded. He spit a thin trickle of blood onto the ground and did his best to open his swollen eyes. He tried to manage a smile, then grimaced in pain.
“Fancy meeting you here,” he said. It wasn’t the greatest opening line, but under the circumstances, Adam considered it pretty damn good.
“Hi, Channing,” he said quietly, feeling sick. He couldn’t bring himself to meet Channing’s gaze. He looked dumbly at the stone knife in his hand.
The ceremony began. So quickly; without any warning. I’m not ready, Adam thought helplessly, and found himself giggling softly and absurdly. No one told me it was about to start. What kind of king doesn’t even know when his own coronation starts?
“And on the last day of the Sexiest Man Alive’s reign, he shall baptize the new Man in his blood, and with his blood shall the new Man be consecrated,” Mary J. Blige read from a book of human skin. Everyone was looking at him. Why was everyone looking at him?
“I’m sorry,” he said vaguely to the air, still looking at everything but Channing’s ruined face. “I’m really, really sorry.”
“It has happened before,” Channing said. “It will happen again. It will happen to you. Do it now.” Adam squeezed the stone knife so hard he felt the outline of it against his bones. He has a child, he thought. A wife and a child. “I can’t,” he heard himself say. “I can’t.”
Channing rattled his chains. “It’s the Sexiest Man Alive,” he growled. “I watched Bradley Cooper twitch in a pool of his own filth at my feet, and I showed him no mercy with these two hands.” There was blood on his mouth. “While I live, you cannot reign. Kill me. DO IT. Kill me. Kill me.”
Adam lifted a shaking hand and pointed the knife at Channing’s throat. “What I am about to do, I do for beauty,” he chanted.
“What we are about to do, we do for beauty,” the hooded crowd replied. Somewhere, the ghost of Ryan Reynolds smiled.
Adam moved the knife from left to right, and blood followed it. Blood covered his hands and his feet, and Adam knew that he was the Sexiest Man Alive in both name and truth. Channing lifted his eyes, and Adam finally felt equal to matching his gaze. His lips moved, but no sound issued from them.
When the servants entered to clear the room, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of Channing Tatum as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.