There was once an emperor who lived in quiet despair. Each day was too long, protracted, seemingly into infinite numbers of minutes, each second stretching for days and each night a short respite from the eternal drudgery and sadness he felt within his soul.
For his 23rd birthday, his lover, who worked in the capacity of Treasurer for the court, had given him a donkey. The lover said to him on that day, "With this ass I wish to demonstrate my love for you."
From that day forward they were constantly together.
The emperor and his ass would attend court functions together, meet with foreign dignitaries, and consult with his mystics and counselors regarding the state of the economy, foreign relations and internal affairs. The donkey was always present. He would even bring his personal ass along with him when he would consort with his lover or involve himself in salacious affairs.
The donkey became a cultural icon amongst the people of the nation. Banners and buttons were printed with caricatures of the donkey on them. The tabloids printed articles speculating on the donkey's lineage, its whereabouts on holidays, whether or not it had a drug or alcohol problem and its love life. There were unauthorized biographies written. In the end the donkey became more than just a national icon. It became a popular pastime.
Naturally, with this fame and adoration there also developed a contingency of jealous dissenters and with the prospect of the donkey's popularity seeming to have no end, this small group created a plot with which to do away with the ass.
The emperor was planning a publicity appearance in a nearby city-state. The plan was for the emperor to ride down a main thoroughfare in an open carriage as a symbol of prosperity and openness between the court and the people as well as the nation and the world. Of course, a large entourage, security people and his beloved ass would accompany him. At the end of the motorcade he would deliver a rousing speech and a festival would follow. The festival would be billed as The Age of the Ass. It was on that day that the jealous traitors planned to assassinate the donkey.
The sun shone down on the boulevard and beads of sweat swelled upon the heads of the emperor and his entourage. It shone down upon the heads of the people on the streets. It shone down upon the ass and it shone down upon the heads of those who wished to assassinate.
When the carriage lurched forward, a great cheer met the emperor and his ass. He waved, smiled and yelled out to his admirers. He congratulated them on helping to build the great nation in which they lived.
As he was bedeviling the throng with his magical charisma, a faint whistling sound pierced the air. The emperor looked around and to his horror, gazed upon his ass, which had been bored in the head by a poisonous dart blown from the gun of a nearby assassin. There was another whistling sound and a second poisonous dart from a second assassin drove its way into the head of the donkey. The impact of the dart caused a chunk of the mule's head to fly up, as if on wing.
The crowd seeing was happening gave a loud gasp in shock and abhorrence at the horrifying spectacle of their beloved icon being slain right in front of them.
A third dart whistled into the carriage, ricocheted off the door and flew up in the air killing a passing pigeon, which fell upon the body of the mule who took his last breath.
People began running in all directions, weeping loudly, and tearing at their clothes and hair and there was chaos for the rest of the afternoon and for several days to follow.
On the fifth day following the assassination a full military funeral was held for the cherished ass. The nation was thus cast into a ghastly pall of mourning and depression.
No one worked. No one played. No one did anything and it was for this reason that the emperor stood on the precipice of the abyss, looking in with hollow eyes and contemplating the end of time.