One can only imagine my surprise then, my complete and utter shock, when I saw not the body of my former familiar leaking life’s-blood upon our locale, but instead was confronted with a scene of blossoming bliss! In his absurd attempt to staven this raven from our menaced mess, Confucius had contorted his body in such a manner as to completely come the once-frightful fowl.
Entirely tamed by the swarthy serenadeur's unintended ululations, the fine feathered fiend did conduct itself in a most genteel manner thereafter and the crewmen declared it good omen that a 12-foot bird should appear upon our vessel so many hundreds of miles from dry land. To see the great cheer upon the faces of the crew as they made jolly jests of Confucius' conundrum, for the sizeable stork had made of itself the dwarf's constant companion. This bird loved him so dearly that it would bear no separation, destroying utterly any impediment, be it wooden or good-men and we soon lost five more men and one great oaken door of considerable value whose loss I much lamented until I decreed that none should seek to separate the two for fear of any other irreparable loss.
No sustenance would the strange bird take save from Confucius' own rations and this would send the little devil into great spasms of tyranny, pounding his fiddle fists upon the creature's chest and weeping softly as he licked up whatever crumbs of biscuit and cheese that might remain towards the end of his day's only meal. So angered with it did he become that he resolved to deny it all attentions entirely and feigned as though the creature did not exist, despite its great mass and sycophantic nature.
For three days and four nights the constant rueful wailing of the spurned sparrow echoed throughout the decks and denied all men their repose. Such pity did the crew take at that point upon the love-stricken lark that they quickly resolved to secure Confucius by the arms and legs atop-deck and allowed the horny heron to sate its great lust upon the midget's minor frame. Bloodied and bedraggled they then placed the unconscious Confucius upon the raven's rump whereby it carried him back to his cabin as a groom would threshold his bride.
The following evening as I meditated in my cabin upon the means and bearing of gentlemanly conduct, a knocking was heard upon my door and I leapt to answer it with great enthusiasm. Finding it to be little more than the hollow-eyed gaze of Confucius awaiting me I proceeded to shut the door once again, but the imposing imp made such profligate protestations that I allowed him to lead me to his cabin. His great avian associate was disappeared from the vessel, but beneath his sleeping slate now lay a great brown egg, though none such as I had ever seen or heard. Of irregular geometry and covered in thick, burnished scales the oppressive ovum and weighted ten-stone if it weighted a dram. Taking my sketchbook in hand I made careful note of the now-extinct egg and with my pro-tractor I found that the angle of its circumference worked out to a peculiar 382 degrees.
The look of bewilderment and fright upon Confucius' fat face reduced me to a tear and I proclaimed with great humor that while the great mother should be named for me, of surety the misshapen miscegenation that would result from the hatching of this benighted birthing-chamber would be known forever as "Confucius' Horrible Homunculus." But as I thought further on the matter it did not seem right to me that the miserable miscreant Confucius should be awarded acclaims for such singular sins as had never been seen upon this ship. Calling upon the mess-master I declared that the egg should make a great feast and I shackled Confucius upon his wall for it seemed wrong that he should feed upon his seed. Retiring to my room to the acclaim of the crew, for the great egg fed all sixty remaining crew and was declared "a great tasty" by the speech-simple shipmates, I knew that I would sleep well that night.
As I looked up from my bed I saw about me not the comfortable and familiar surroundings of my cabin upon the Infinite Bravado, but a queer and misshapen cityscape such as no man has witnessed for millennia uncounted. My eyes soon adjusted to the strange brilliance that seemed to emit from every inch of this amazing urban marvel, the sun high in the sky and reflecting from every faceted surface in an omnipresent coppery glare. Towering above me for hundreds of feet were sheer bronze towers and minarets, bedecked with strange pyramidal structures and covered in symbols, the meaning of which I could make neither heads nor tails.
A thousand immense bells resounded constantly, each clamorous clashing against the resounding ringer echoing throughout the cavernous city, surrounded on every side by sheer cliffs which dwarfed even the immense architecture. But apart from this strange symphony, there was no sign of human life, no evidence even of the birds or beasts of the field, and despite the constant din I have never before nor since felt more surely such a dreadful silence, as though this place was no longer meant for life.
With restless eyes I sought for any sign of civilization, how I had arrived here… what had happened to the rest of my crew… this was of surety the fabled City of Brass which I had been tasked to discover, but now having found it by no means of my own, I was uncertain of how to proceed. Keeping my wits about me, I could only surmise that my devilish adversary Du Pont had by some means summoned me to the City of Brass, and realizing the implication, that I was already too late, that he had discovered the secrets of the magical golden lamp and now meant to toy with me as the cat toys with the mouse. Taking careful appraisal of my surroundings, I thought for one moment that my only regret would be to have failed that heroic soul President Chester A. Arthur in the task appointed to me. With a stiffening of my lip, I resolved that I would not fail without having first made every attempt I might to somehow oppose Eleuthere and win the wondrous lamp from my ferocious foe, no matter what strange powers of black magic or Saracen mischief he might summon up against me.
Ernest Cline, writer of Ready Player One, shares his newest poem.
Honestly, the Assassin In Love poster is nearly perfect to begin with. It just needs a few minor tweaks.