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Collection II
Volume I, Unit 1
by Aaron Zwintscher

The Adventures of Rupert Felix

Chapter 1 (Volume I. Unit 1)
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Chapter 1

In Which Our Hero, Rupert Felix, Former Janitor, Finds Himself in a Dicey Situation Involving a Ghost Ship, Demon Pirates, and Bad Actors

Rupert Felix, former janitor, regarded the pirates with unconcealed disdain"Rupert Felix ... regarded the pirates with unconcealed disdain. These were the best they could gather? [The pirates] lacked the one skill they had been hired for: waiting tables while dressed as pirates.". These were the best they could gather? This haughty"This haughty group of barely employable pirate re-enactors did not even begin to deserve the air of superiority they carried." group of barely employable pirate re-enactors did not even begin to deserve the air of superiority they carried. With a dearth"With a dearth of talent as sailors, they also lacked the one skill they had been hired for: waiting tables while dressed as pirates." of talent as sailors, they also lacked the one skill they had been hired for: waiting tables while dressed as pirates. That Rupert Felix, itinerant adventurer, was stuck on a perfectly recreated replica of the Plague Bringer, terror of the Caribbean for nearly 150 years, with men who didn’t miss a chance to shout “Yarr!” or “Ahoy!” or “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!” was truly an ominous"That Rupert Felix ... was stuck on a perfectly recreated replica of the Plague Bringer, terror of the Caribbean for nearly 150 years, ... was truly an ominous sign." sign. That they were being pursued by a ghost ship captained by Lucifer’s younger brother Maxwell and crewed by hell’s ugliest was nearly enough to drive our normally plucky"That they were being pursued by a ghost ship captained by Lucifer's younger brother ... [was] enough to drive our normally plucky hero to the depths of nihilism..." hero to the depths of nihilism"That they were being pursued by a ghost ship captained by Lucifer's younger brother ... [was] enough to drive our normally plucky hero to the depths of nihilism, to an abyss of unending despair...", to an abyss"That they were being pursued by a ghost ship captained by Lucifer's younger brother ... [was] enough to drive our normally plucky hero ... to an abyss of unending despair..." of unending despair only known to exist in teenagers, Emo musicians, and English Romantic poets.

Rupert Felix thought back on his life and how he had managed to fall so far as to become captain of One Legged Pete’s Pirate Dinner Cruise. It had seemed so simple. Every choice made sense at the time. He had been terribly melancholy"He had been terribly melancholy as a janitor, spending long nights moping and mopping..." as a janitor, spending long nights moping and mopping around executive offices at the North American headquarters of the Cavendish Corporation and ignoring the pull of his wandering soul. He had never felt himself an office worker. He was too much of a free spirit and he needed his days to explore the city and all it had to offer. But sometimes he wished that he had chosen to work his way up the ladder, so that he’d be sitting in the big chair instead of vacuuming underneath it.

It was a Thursday and he was halfway through his shift when he had had enough. He dropped his mop, took off his Clean City coveralls, and left the building, taking the executive rather than the service elevator. Yes, he was finally ready to realize his boyhood dream: to sail the seven seas with the wind in his hair and the sun at his back and the smell of salt all around. First, however, he had to make his way to the coast (without alerting his terrifying landlady, to whom a certain sizeable sum was still owed for all the times she’d let him do his laundry free of charge when he was out of quarters) and then find a ship that would take on a sailor whose only qualification was extensive familiarity with a mop. All this took a little longer than Rupert Felix might have wished, but along the way he got the chance to work as a traveling umbrella salesman, rescuer of endangered owls, hand and foot model, and theme park tour guide, so it was not a total loss. And eventually, Rupert Felix became a sailor. It was as if he was guided by destiny. Then one day, Destiny offered him the chance of a lifetime: to be captain of his own ship. He should have read the fine print.

Taking a deep breath, our intrepid Rupert Felix, amateur philosopher, managed to refrain from swooning in terror at the thought of the hellish crew pursuing him, and reminded himself of the parable"... Rupert Felix, amateur philosopher, ... reminded himself of the parable of the frog and the scorpion." of the frog and the scorpion. A frog and a scorpion met at a riverbank. The scorpion promised not to sting the frog if only the frog would carry him across the river. The credulous"The scorpion promised not to sting the frog if only the frog would carry him across the river. The credulous frog agreed, but when they reached the middle of the river the scorpion stung the frog anyway." frog agreed, but when they reached the middle of the river the scorpion stung the frog anyway. The frog asked, “Why would you do that? Now we will both drown.” To which the scorpion replied simply, “It is my nature.”

It was in the nature of the demons who were even now closing in on the Plague Bringer to terrorize any who sailed the vast oceans. Indeed, it was foolish to expect that he could spend so long running the seven seas and never pay their fee. But Rupert Felix was a survivor, and not a bad poker player to boot, and so he gambled once more. Deftly"Deftly dismissing his doubts in the quick and skillful manner he had learned in Vegas, Felix put on his poker face as he rolled the dice..." dismissing his doubts in the quick and skillful manner he had learned in Vegas, Felix put on his poker face as he rolled the dice one last time. He turned to his comrades-in-arms, these actors dressed to the nines in Jack Sparrow chic and more concerned with pulchritude"... [the actors were] more concerned with pulchritude and their pocket mirrors than their safety and survival, and [Rupert Felix] began to rebuke them for their vanity..." and their pocket mirrors than their safety and survival, and began to rebuke"... [the actors were] more concerned with pulchritude and their pocket mirrors than their safety and survival, and [Rupert Felix] began to rebuke them for their vanity..." them for their vanity and inaction.

Meanwhile, aboard the ghost ship, the oddly named Unicorn’s Uncle, the bilious"... the bilious and ill-tempered Maxwell Satan was ranting and raving at his crew, lashing them with whips and chains so that they would row faster..." and ill-tempered Maxwell Satan was ranting"... the bilious and ill-tempered Maxwell Satan was ranting and raving at his crew, lashing them with whips and chains so that they would row faster..." and raving at his crew, lashing them with whips and chains so that they would row faster and catch the one vessel on the ocean that dared cross their blockade without paying the reasonable toll. Was it so much to ask that every sailor surrender his or her soul? It was just a soul, after all. Yet, even with all the abuse, his demon crew remained impassive"Yet, even with all the abuse, his demon crew remained impassive, showing no emotion at all on their horribly twisted and scaly faces...", showing no emotion at all on their horribly twisted and scaly faces, and rowing no faster. It was so hard to find undead, demonic, or otherwise nefarious help these days. Perhaps that explained Maxwell’s predilection"It was so hard to find undead, demonic, or otherwise nefarious help these days. Perhaps that explained Maxwell's predilection for the newly damned, who were so willing to please..." for the newly damned, who were so willing to please in the vain hope that they would earn their release.

Maxwell wished once again that he had been born somebody else’s younger brother, so that instead of being a demon captain of a ghost ship he could have been a college professor in a small New England town. He could have looked erudite"... he could have been a college professor... He could have looked erudite in his tweed jacket and loafers..." in his tweed jacket and loafers, waxing eloquent about the nature of human life or, perhaps, the Art of the Baroque. Then, the worst he could have been accused of would be pedantic"... instead of being a demon captain ... he could have been a college professor... Then, the worst he could have been accused of would be pedantic arguments or soporific lectures." arguments or soporific"... instead of being a demon captain ... he could have been a college professor... Then, the worst he could have been accused of would be pedantic arguments or soporific lectures." lectures. A demon can dream. A demon can dream.


Soon Rupert Felix and his crew found themselves in the mother of all storms,
their tiny ship tossed to and fro, fore and aft, to starboard and port. (Chapter 2)

Illustration by Rosa Lykiardopoulos

Meantime, the pirate re-enactors of the Plague Bringer were getting lachrymose"... the pirate re-enactors of the Plague Bringer were getting lachrymose, tears streaming down their cheeks.", tears streaming down their cheeks. The wind and the sea salt had permanently stained their brand new outfits. Each man aboard had spent weeks or even months hand-sewing intricate patterns and adding precious details like gold and silver thread, elegant buttons, and silk linings, and now it would all be ruined. Also, they were all about to die. They had finally realized that the ship chasing them down was not a companion ship also on a training run for a brand new Miami-based dinner theater on the sea. In response, they began to chug the rum and other various spirits that had been meant to intoxicate the guests of a corporate party later that evening. Imbibing"In response, they began to chug the rum and other various spirits... Imbibing at a dangerous rate, they were ... performing their final act of pirate imitation..." at a dangerous rate, they were both performing their final act of pirate imitation and making a feeble attempt to gain courage for the coming battle. Alas, it did them no good. It was as if they were all suffering from some rare new malady"It was as if they were all suffering from some rare new malady that rendered them incapable of rallying to their own defense." that rendered them incapable of rallying to their own defense. They would die, the food in the kitchen would go cold and then spoil, and the ship would sink and probably never be found, an inconsequential"... the ship would sink and probably never be found, an inconsequential pile of wood and rigging and fake cannons forever forgotten at the bottom of the briny deep." pile of wood and rigging and fake cannons forever forgotten at the bottom of the briny deep. Nevertheless, they continued to preen and strut, practicing carrying empty trays and singing all the shanties they could remember. Unicorn’s Uncle, meantime, bore down upon them, grappling hooks at the ready.

Only Rupert Felix seemed resolute in the face of the oncoming threat. He walked the decks at a measured pace, as if on a ramble"He walked the decks at a measured pace, as if on a ramble in the verdant green English or Californian countryside..." in the verdant green English or Californian countryside instead of in dire straits in the middle of the ocean, awaiting almost certain doom. A small smile played on his lips, as if he knew something that none of his crew did, as if he knew some means of escaping this impossibly difficult situation. Rupert Felix first produced his pistol (it was remarkably real-looking, even by Plague Bringer standards) and then drew forth his saber (you could almost swear it was sharpened) and roared to his crew, “Stand and deliver or the devil—he may take ya!” And the crew, suddenly roused from their stupor, manned battle stations and prepared to take on the boarders. Rupert Felix bellowed again, “Cannons! Fire one!” seemingly unaware that all the cannons were made of plastic and capable of firing nothing but bunches of confetti.