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The Emperor Ausso

by Dan Clore

The Emperor Ausso of Atlantis had grown glutted on the multitudinous torments to which his subjects had been submitted. He could only sigh with the weariness of ennui when he gazed at the vistas extending as far as the eye could see in the garden of carnivorous blossoms fed only on human flesh, each one producing a unique and erotic perfume; the sight of political dissidents, rebels against his implacable tyranny, frozen into the translucent crystal of waterfalls, in winding caverns beneath the capital, failed to rekindle his interest; the combats of humans, condemned on any pretext whatsoever, against exotic chimaeras, created in the laboratories of his arcane researchers, combining pre-existent animals with bizarre mutations, no longer roused a smile from his satiated soul; his seraglio, composed of the most beautiful of all Atlantean maidens, selected by a rigorous search, each one submitted to a voluptuous torture more refined than the others, could sustain his attention no more. All had altered into the greyness of a dismal dullness.

On an octireme the Emperor Ausso set forth to discover new and rarer delights, previously unsuspected, in the unexplored portions of the world. Nothing awaited him there but troglodytes and endless expanses of mundanity. Barren wastes of indefinite boredom. Unsatisfied, too ennuied to feel even the pangs of disappointment, the Emperor Ausso ordered his subalterns to tack the ship back towards the latitudes of the known regions. Only an expanse of placid watery surface awaited them where the capital city of Poseidonis had formerly towered, proud and erect.

At this sight, the Emperor Ausso fell into an ecstatic trance, from which he never recovered. When the few survivors of that civilization had founded a colony in the recently mapped areas, the Emperor Ausso lived as a hermit, eating only bread, drinking only water, never speaking to others, always attentive to the interior world. The others said to themselves, and to each other, that he must have called to mind the prophecy made in earlier aeons, that the wickedness of an Emperor should bring on a divine retribution, and that the gods would cast Atlantis into the irremediable abyss, and that he had become converted to the ways of piety by that revelations, -- none of them ever suspecting, that the Emperor Ausso occupied his consciousness solely with the overwhelming thought of the beauty of a novel spectacle which it had been his misfortune and his great regret to miss, in an ineffable rêverie.

We cannot contain ourselves that Ghoulmeister Brian McNaughton has commented:

"This is a neat little story, an homage to Clark Ashton Smith that incorporates an idea that I bet Smith himself would have used if he had thought of it."

Copyright © 1996-2006 Dan Clore. All rights reserved.
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